Shortly after Women without Borders (WwB) rolled out its first ever MotherSchools in India, it endeavoured to bring the participants’ messages, learnings, and personal stories into their neighbourhoods by collaborating with Radio Mewat. Broadcasting the MotherSchools helped to spread awareness of the pervasive culture of violence—both domestic and extremist—facing isolated and marginalised Muslim communities in Mewat.
Mewat is a remote region of India with a Muslim majority population where the Islamist movement Tablighi Jamaat previously gained ground by capitalising on widespread poverty and low literacy rates, and where Meo women were confined to their homes and lived in complete isolation; many of them had never left the village, let alone boarded a bus. The women of Mewat, as it later emerged, felt overwhelmed by the lack of respect for their gender, and by the violence they had to endure in their homes and communities. Following its first Indian MotherSchools in 2013, which sought to break this cycle of isolation and tackle domestic violence and violent extremism in Mewat, Women without Borders (WwB) recognised the need to bring the stories of effected and concerned mothers to the forefront.
Against this background, WwB partnered with the community-based station Radio Mewat that had been set up by the local organisation SMART in 2010 with the aim of serving communities in their native languages. Through the ‘MotherSchools on Air’ programme, SMART trained its radio staff to disseminate the stories of marginalised women. This strategy managed to bring their messages to the whole area; the radio signal had a radius of 25 kilometres and reached around 200 villages.
In September 2014, WwB and its local implementing partner co-organised a Mother on Air training at the Austrian Embassy in New Delhi. The training was directed at radio journalists from Mewat and so-called ‘barefoot reporters’. The latter comprised participants from the first MotherSchools cycle in Mewat who were taught to record their learnings, messages, and individual narratives for dissemination via the radio programme. While WwB’s weekly MotherSchools meetings provided the content for the programme, SMART made available the necessary equipment and offered technical training. Two reporters attended the subsequent WwB MotherSchools cycles to record additional material, and participants also came by the radio station or gave phone interviews.
The combined efforts of WwB and its LIP resulted in two weekly radio programmes. Each episode had a unique theme, featured between seven and eight mothers, and left sufficient time for listeners to call in with questions.