Ziguinchor, Senegal – On a hot, steamy day in Ziguinchor, a small coastal city in Senegal’s southern Casamance region, 31-year-old Marie Leocadie Coly walks into a recording studio, turns on the fan and puts on her headphones.
At the sign of the producer sitting behind the glass window, Coly begins to speak into the microphone.
“Welcome to Radio Kassumay, the radio of Women for Peace and Development of the Casamance,” Coly says cheerfully as she begins her live, one-hour broadcast.
Coly is one of the 52 female reporters who make up the Network of Community Radios for Peace and Development in Casamance, a group of 18 radio stations run completely by women that span across Senegal’s southern region, which home to one of Africa’s oldest separatist movements.
Since the creation of the first station in 2004, the broadcasts have become an important platform for the promotion of peace in the country.
“The radio [stations] have played a key role in breaking the communication barrier between opposing sides in the Casamance conflict,” says Abdou Sarr, director of World Education, a non-profit organisation that funds several peacemaking programmes in Senegal, including the radio network says.
“But our goal is also to inform and empower women, who play a key role in the peacemaking process,” Sarr adds.
Three-decade long conflict
Casamance is separated from the rest of Senegal by The Gambia. Ethnic and religious differences between the two regions, as well as a sense