17.02.2014 - UNESCO Office in Dakar

Women have to believe and trust themselves, says female radio pioneer in Senegal

© UNESCO/Tine Ismael

“Women have to believe and trust themselves to be able to work in male dominated environments, ” said Helen Harley, a pioneer of the Senegalese radio. She spoke at a ceremony organized by the UNESCO’s Regional Office in Dakar on the occasion of World Radio Day, on 13 February 2014.

This year, the focus was on gender equality and women’s empowerment through the radio and a tribute was dedicated to Helen Harley for her pioneering work as radio journalist.

Born in 1933, Helen Harley began her career as radio speaker in the late 1960s at the ORTS. She here presented the news and cultural programmes. She underlined that gender equality was not an issue at the time.

“If I managed to get such a position, it was because I fought to get it and to keep it, in an environment that remains dominated by men,” she told the audience, which included many of her relatives and former colleagues.

Helen Harley encouraged women to be proud of their work, to have high ethical standards and be hard working. “Throughout my career I have worked in such a manner that I could respect myself and that men would respect me and my work,” she added.

Another female pioneer

Another important pioneer among female journalists in Senegal is Annette Mbaye d’Erneville, who also attended the ceremony. She is Dean of the Senegalese journalists and emphasized that radios must be proud to promote diversity and journalists need to correctly speak their own language and not mix languages.

“You need to find the right words in Wolof, rather than using the French translations,” Annette Mbaye d’Erneville said.

Need to fight stereotypes

Ann Therese Ndong-Jatta, Director of the UNESCO Office in Dakar, emphasizing the role of each and every one of us in the fight against stereotypes.

“The media is the faithful mirror of our societies, and it is essential that the media convey information that challenges the predominantly male and stereotyped representations ", she said.

The morning ended with a presentation of the evolution of radio in sub-Saharan Africa since 1924 by Jean-Pierre Ilboudo, Regional Adviser for Communication and Information in the UNESCO Dakar Office.

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