Local radio addressing young women in the sex trade in the Democratic Republic of the Congo


“My mother and father were killed in the war and I was the eldest of three children. I have to earn money to bring my brothers food, and I want them to go to school,” said a young woman in an interview with Moanda Community Radio.

This radio station has reportedly helped at least one young woman from the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) to end her activity in the sex trade. Poverty is a common factor across countries in forcing youth into becoming sex workers by limiting the number of economic opportunities available to them. The UNESCO-supported local radio invited the young woman on-air to discuss this issue and the circumstances that led to her involvement in the sex trade.

The interview was aired as part of Moanda Community Radio’s regular program, “Portrait of a Woman”. This radio program reveals important local matters through intimate personal interviews with women from the community. The station aired this young woman’s story to explain how the sex trade was the only path available for many to survive.

“Poverty cripples societies and hinders the opportunities available to young people,” said Mirta Lourenço, Chief of Media Development and Society at UNESCO. “Local radio can help by bringing attention to the pressing issues facing them and holding society to account.”

The broadcast of this interview culminated with one listener calling in, deeply moved by her story, to offer her a job as a sales assistant in his enterprise. Since then, the young woman has reportedly accepted the offer and was able to free herself from life as a sex worker.

According to a recent estimate by UNAIDS, there are close to 3,000,000 sex workers active in the DRC (UNAIDS, 2016. Country factsheets, Democratic Republic of the Congo) many of which are allegedly homeless youth.

Moanda Community Radio, the station broadcasting the interview, was one of four local radio stations from Phase I of UNESCO’s “Empowering Local Radio with ICTs” project, supported by Sweden. The project worked to better communities and confront poverty and development challenges through the training of local radio staff to tackle issues of local concern. This initiative helped to build local radio personnel’s capacities on how to cover gender issues and how to contribute to the removal of harmful biases and stereotypes from the media. By incorporating a specific gender component in all its activities, the project advanced the empowerment of women and gender equality, as in line with the UN’s SDG 5.

To learn more about how this project empowered women through local radio, visit the “On air with rural women” exhibition.