Starting a women’s radio station for the Arab world might have seemed ambitious. But nearly six years on, it’s going from strength to strength. Radio Nissa founder Maysoun Odeh Gangat shares the story behind the ground-breaking radio station, created as a joint initiative with The Womanity Foundation… and how it has helped empower women.

Seven years ago, I had the pleasure to dine in East Jerusalem with Yann Borgstedt, an entrepreneur,  philanthropist with a great vision: a women’s radio station for the Arab world.
Despite the many challenges that we faced, Radio Nisaa went live in June 2010 broadcasting from Ramallah on FM and streaming on it’s website to the world. Many thought ours was a mission impossible… but we are now among the top ranking Palestinian radio stations with 300,000 faithful and engaged listeners.

Radio Nissa’s programs, it’s website and social media activities inspire change: firstly by raising awareness on women’s rights, then by empowering them through informative and inspirational programmes. And finally, by training and employing young women in the media profession. Indeed to date we have enrolled and trained more than 50 interns and university students on gender and media. Also, five journalists and presenters who were part of Radio Nissa’s original team moved on to brilliant careers with national or regional media. We have moved beyond the confines of the radio station: we coached 50 women members of local village councils and municipalities on how to conduct effective radio and TV interviews. And we trained 10 community reporters from the West Bank and the Gaza Strip on community journalism and then employed some of them at Radio Nisaa.

Radio programs are produced and presented by women who focus their content on inspirational women’s stories, feature role models from all walks of life and from urban and rural areas. Women – and men who respect women – are regularly interviewed on our shows and others participate in discussions on topics related to women’s political, economic and civic rights.

So where will we go from here? We have embarked on expanding the Nisaa model throughout the Middle East and North Africa, together with the Womanity Foundation. Nissa Network, a pioneering regional multimedia platform featuring empowering content for and by women, will be launched in 2016 in collaboration with media partners in Jordan, Egypt and Tunisia.

The network will serve to connect, inspire and empower Arab women in 10 countries by 2018. With more than 50% of Arab women using the internet to access news and information, we expect the Nisaa Network to enrich their knowledge and help them share their experiences, challenges and solutions. Additionally, together with Womanity we produced the first Arab radio drama series which focused on women’s role in society. Be 100 Ragl was aired to great acclaim in 9 countries across the region including Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Yemen, Egypt and Syria. Be 100 Ragl’s second season is presently in production as an animated series and will be released soon on TV and online.

I’m thankful to Yann and the Womanity team who have worked relentlessly as my partners on all of these projects in the best interests of Arab women and men. I am an empowered Arab woman and a role model to other Arab women. As such I pledge to relentlessly invest in giving women the courage to voice their aspirations and become strong members of our societies.

Maysoun Odeh Gangat
Founder of Radio Nisaa
Maysoun Odeh Gangat’s blog is taken from her address at the Womanity Foundation Gala in February 2016.