I sat down with the Amani Eltunsi in World Summit Youth Award. She is the founder of WSYA winning project Banat wi Bass (Girls Only). We talked more about her motivation and goals.
Girls Only is an Internet radio run by women for women. Their programs consist mostly of discussions and talking programs but they also play local oriental music.
Girls Only radio station has gained huge publicity and success gaining 5 million subscribers which has totally surprised Eltunsi. But she says that success has never been her goal but to improve her country.
- The lesson I learned from my mother was that everybody has a message in life to deliver and this is mine, Eltunsi says.
When she was working as a designer making advertisements and magazines she didn’t feel doing important things that has meaning like now with her radio station. She was shaken by violence she saw a man doing to his wife. Eltunsi tried to help and talk to the woman but she was too scared to speak up. So Eltunsi felt that she wanted to give women of Egypt a voice and output channel to their opinions.
The feedback has been mainly positive, but Eltunsi has had her fair share of negativity also.
- Some tell us to go home to cook and that women should not be doing things like this.
But these attitudes are what Eltunsi is trying to change in Egyptian society and she says that she rather focuses on the positive comments. She says that Egypt is far behind compared to Tunis for example as far women’s rights are concerned.
-The social political atmosphere was better during the 18 days revolution in Egypt last spring and couple months afterwards but things have slid back to their old ways, Eltunsi explains.
Funding the radio station has been the biggest problem from the beginning. Eltunsi started by taking a loan because she couldn’t find supporters for the station in 2008. Later on she got money from advertising agency but when economic crisis hit the agency cut their finance to radio. Eltunsi took matters into her own hands once again and started writing book about the rights of women and homosexuals.
-People asked me how I dare to write about those matters.
But selling the book kept her station going. After the revolution book sales have plummeted though since people are struggling to get money even for food.
The Egyptian revolution brought also other problems. The Internet was down during that time and Eltunsi was on forced vacation. She used the time to film events on Tahiri square. The military regime is also trying to bring up the controversies between Copti-christians and Muslims, keep people busy and silence the discussion about the rights of women.
Eltunsi hopes to have regular funding and permanent working place for her station in the future.
-I would like to run it professionally and pay regular salaries to the staff, she says.
Though she likes her work and feel it’s important it isn’t always fun.
-It’s hard work and it is sometimes difficult to face the hurting of people.
Eltunsi says that she would also be interested in working with Harassmap – another Egyptian WSYA winner – in the future to improve the status of Egyptian women in their society.