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Making waves in the South Caucasus

Mount Ararat seen from Yerevan. Mount Ararat is the assumed place where Noah’s Ark landed | Photo by: Letizia Gambini
Mount Ararat seen from Yerevan. Mount Ararat is the assumed place where Noah’s Ark landed | Photo by: Letizia Gambini

As a project manager for Sourcefabric, most of the time you are stuck working at a desk in Prague or Berlin dealing with client requests and JIRA tickets. Mount Ararat is probably one of the best views a Sourcefabric project manager can have in the morning before or in the evening after his work day. This change of scenery from my Berlin office was a result of me joining the team working on our microwav.fm project.

Empowering people with online radio

Lara is originally from the southernmost province of Armenia on the border of Iran. She is 19 and currently studying art history in Yerevan, the Armenian capital. Lara volunteers at the Women’s Resource Center Armenia (WRCA), an Armenian NGO that supports women in their fight for equal rights and opportunities. “The microwav.fm project,” she says, “gives us the opportunity to raise important issues and to educate society in women rights and problems that women in Armenia face on a daily basis.”

Lara (center) at work for Women’s Voice Radio | Photo by: Petra Hultman

Lara (center) at work for Women’s Voice Radio | Photo by: Petra Hultman

At the WRCA, Lara and her colleague Ruzanna Harutyunyan work together with other volunteers to run Women’s Voice radio. They joined microwav.fm radio trainings in Yerevan and recently in Tbilisi, the capital of the neighbouring Georgia. They learned that radio is not complicated and they can run it with a simple computer and a microphone, using Sourcefabric’s radio automation software Airtime.

One of the highlights of their radio broadcast is “Following the traces of Armenian women”. In every show, Women’s Voice radio presents portraits of active and successful women (deputies, writers, diplomats, professors etc) living in the Ottoman Empire. In the meantime, the Women’s Voice team not only produces a weekly show about women’s rights, but also broadcasts content 24/7. To enable them to do this, Airtime allows station managers to plan schedules with recurring shows and scheduled music. These are crucial features for many small radios.

The geopolitical situation in this area of the world increases the challenges associated with running a small independent radio station. Armenia and its neighbouring countries of Azerbaijan and Georgia form most of the South Caucasus region. The region has a challenging geopolitical setting and its countries have suffered armed conflicts as well as internal social, economic and political instability for over 25 years. The project microwav.fm is supported by the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (SIDA) and has the goal to help civic organisations and activist groups communicate with their audiences in an appealing and modern way to spur a dialogue about human rights, freedom and democracy; not to mention having fun DJ’ing their favourite music.

Growing stronger, making waves

The community around microwav.fm is growing. The project faces many challenges due to existing conflicts between individual countries of the South Caucasus region as well as difficult political environments inside some of the region's countries. Nevertheless, the network now includes 17 radio stations in Abkhazia, Armenia and Georgia and more are joining soon.

Armenian and Georgian participants after our microwav.fm training in Tbilisi in July | Photo by: Zviad Kechakmadze

Armenian and Georgian participants after our microwav.fm training in Tbilisi in July | Photo by: Zviad Kechakmadze

Sometimes I feel it is close to impossible to achieve the project goals in a limited amount of time. But then, the enthusiasm of the people I have met make me think that this common media work across borders can really help a generation of mostly young people who are tired of transnational issues, war and mistrust. A generation that is already travelling and studying abroad, albeit with more and higher hurdles, but in a way that is similar to young people in Western Europe.

In our Sourcefabric Berlin office there is now a bottle of Armenian Ararat brandy – the 10-year-old Akhtamar variety – and a bottle of Georgian Sarajishvili standing together side by side. Those are the visible (and drinkable) symbols of the project in our office. But the greatest outcome is something that you can sense with your ears: the audible streaming output (available as an international and cross-station remix in the microwav.fm radio player) of about two dozen radio stations in the whole South Caucasus region, with music ranging from global reggae to local heavy-metal bands (or the other way around), from business and economic topics to gender equality, and from Sukhumi at the Black Sea to Yerevan in Armenia and potentially Baku in Azerbaijan, at the Caspian Sea.

At Sourcefabric, we are convinced that radio waves can overcome any borders! Why not start today your own radio station with Airtime Pro?

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