‘Freedom of expression has no gender'

Sergiona Stéphanie Rousseau, a participant of the WACC Summer School, being interviewed during a workshop activity.
Photo: Contributed

Through the Women’s Network of Haitian Community Radio Stations (REFRAKA) I had the opportunity to participate in the Summer school organized by WACC in Jamaica from 25th to 30th July 2016 on the theme “The right to communicate and religion”. Several students from various countries also participated such as: the Bahamas, Suriname, Puerto Rico, USA, Mexico, Colombia, India, Jamaica, Malawi and Germany. First I signed up without really having an idea about the relationship between the right to communicate and religion, what interested me most was the “communication” concept because I work in that field and I wanted to update my training and obtain more information about the term.

What I’ve learned in the Summer school was quite different from what I expected. And the deep connection between communication and religion was really unimaginable.

My experience of attending the WACC Summer School led me to finally understand that communication is central to everything: Politics, economics, culture, history, sociology, religion, dialogue; in short, it is the foundation of any social organization. Everyone has the right to communicate, whether they are male, female, disabled, transgender ... and no one should force them or strip them of their rights because it is a fundamental right, they depend on communication in order to exist in society.

Of course everyone is different so that they have different ways to communicate depending on their culture, class, color, education ... but it is important to know that in general, the right to communicate is a way that secures access to information you need and be heard by those in power taking into account our views and a response from those in power to issues raised. It requires a genuine dialogue on an equal footing.

The right to communication and gender is a priority for REFRAKA and the work on integration and active participation we carry out with women in community radio stations clearly demonstrates this. During the Summer School, I learned that freedom of expression is neutral. It has no gender. Gender norms, gender and power relations, gender equality and inequality affect all women and men and the enjoyment of their right to communication. Communication is a reflection of the population, so if there are fewer women in the media, there is a problem in society. It is society’s role to include more women in their community media. And this is what we want to do in Haiti with the network by integrating the maximum number of women in community radio in the country and we hope that the other radio stations in the country can follow the example. Gender equality recognizes the unbalanced values on power, status ... for men and women.

As we can therefore notice, communication is a process of social change that can be used as an instrument of religion to achieve the change we all want. Religion, through faith-based organizations, contributes to the democratic community structure by building hospitals, schools, providing emergency relief ... These are necessary primary needs for women and men as a respect for their human rights and dignity.

Communication rights are important to enable and protect other human rights because these are deeply connected to all social relationships. It is necessary to promote them in order to build more democratic communities, and encourage equity and inclusion.

Sergiona Stéphanie Rousseau of the Women’s Network of Haitian Community Radio Stations (REFRAKA) – a member of WACC - was invited by WACC to participate at its Summer School at the Northern Caribbean University in Mandeville, Jamaica from 25-29 July 2016.

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