Hadiza Abdoulkarim shrieked, dropped her bag, and raced back to the radio station. She had been shopping with a friend when her boss called to tell her she had won a George Atkins Communications Award.
She recalls: “I shouted with joy. People were looking at me, but I acted as if nothing was happening and I ran all the way to the radio. There, with my colleagues, we made even more noise.”
Hadiza produces and hosts farmer programs at Radio Dallol FM in Balleyara, about 100 kilometres northeast of Niamey, the capital of Niger. She was one of three winners of the 2017 George Atkins Communications Award, which is presented to radio broadcasters who excel in providing programming to help small-scale farmers feed their families and increase their income. The award is named after the late Dr. George Atkins, founder of Farm Radio International. Attending the award presentation for Hadiza was the president of the local press house and the municipal leader.
Listeners recognize Hadiza’s voice when she visits their villages, and ask for her by name when they visit the radio station seeking assistance.
That connection with her listeners is what makes the job so rewarding for Hadiza. She says, “I love this work because I feel like someone who shines a light, who helps people out of the darkness with my reports and the information we broadcast.”
The trilingual journalist has earned numerous certificates from media associations and non-governmental organizations in her six years with Radio Dallol FM. But pursuing a career in journalism has not been easy. She began her first broadcasting internship at age 33, with a young child, a primary education, and a background as a seamstress. After four years of hard work, she landed a staff job.
She has faced harassment and threats while in the field recording interviews. Family members have criticized her choice of career. But that hasn’t stopped her from getting her stories to air.
She explains, “It’s a complicated situation, because we have a mix of religion, tradition, and other factors that disadvantage women. A real change in mentality is what we need.”
One day, a woman came to the station asking for Hadiza. The farmer was distressed because caterpillars were destroying her crops. After visiting the farm, Hadiza was assigned to produce special programming about the problem, including interviews with health and agriculture authorities as well as farmers.
She looks back at that opportunity as a turning point in her career: “When I started recording the program, I sat in front of the microphone and I asked myself, ‘Will this radio show bring change?’”
Bringing change is what motivates Hadiza to keep going, even when the work is tough. She adds: “Radio work is teamwork. It has a big impact on farmers. Where we live, people might not follow the instructions of a technical service, but they will follow what they hear on the radio.”
Radio Dallol FM partnered with Farm Radio International to produce programs on cowpea, gender, and the value chain for small ruminants such as goats and sheep. As the main host of these programs, Hadiza has seen the impact of radio in the communities she serves.
“One day I was seven kilometres from Balleyara in a village called Winditan, preparing a report. Before I started, a woman approached me and said my voice sounded like Hadiza Abdoulkarim. I said, ‘It’s me.’ She invited me into her house, and she showed me some papers. She said that because of our programs, she had gone and obtained the title deeds for her farm. She then told me that if it hadn’t been for those papers, one of her cousins would have sold the farm the previous week.”
Looking ahead, Hadiza hopes to continue learning to become a better journalist, and one day, manager of a media outlet.