By: Samira Y. Salifu
Aminata Konaté is a radio journalist with the United Nations Radio Mikado FM in Mali. Known to her listeners as Mimi Konaté, she holds 30 years of experience in radio journalism, having begun her career in 1993 as one of the first female voices for the national radio of Mali. Through her weekly radio programme, she helps educate and inform communities in Mali about women’s health, save lives and stop the spread of mis and disinformation. Mimi tells us about what motivates her to host Objectif Santé (Health Goal).
“Objectif Santé is a public health programme that started in 2015 when Mikado FM first went on air. It focuses on women’s health and brings together professional and expert voices, such as doctors and airs in French and Bamana, one of the local languages, to reach a wider audience.
I am not a medical professional, but I conduct extensive research in preparation for each programme so that I can effectively engage the expert panelists and ask the right questions for the benefit of my listeners. This also includes collecting information from my network of women’s groups and working with my team to garner resources from several global public health news sources.
I think it is important to provide everyone with the right information on health. However, it is crucial to talk to women about their health problems, because religious, traditional and societal constraints make it difficult for women to broach taboo topics such as contraception.
In rural areas in Mali, for instance, women cannot access health facilities, and where they can, there are no specialists available to address their questions and concerns. Some women link debilitating hormonal illnesses such as endometriosis [a condition in which cells like the lining of the uterus grow outside the uterus] to fate because they are not certain that these are ailments at all. Sometimes women resort to traditional healers for their health concerns, including for breast or uterine cancer, and suffer life-threatening complications since they do not receive appropriate treatment.
I am passionate about empowering women in such vulnerable positions with the correct information. So, Objectif Santé seeks to demystify illnesses, correct misconceptions, as well as highlight the availability of health services to encourage early intervention and specialist consultation where possible. We also advertise public service announcements for community screening for illnesses such as hepatitis, through partnerships with the UN System, advocacy groups and organizations who support women.
Over time, there has been a noticeable shift in attitudes, and I am proud of the gains made. These days, when we have a programme that discusses female genital mutilation, for example, women call in to share their own experiences. Others call in to request for contact numbers of panelists.
One evening, a woman came all the way to my house with such a request after listening to a clubfoot specialist on the programme: she had been told by her village doctor that her child’s clubfoot could not be corrected but learnt from Objectif Santé that it could.
Women should be given a chance to speak about their health problems so that a solution can be found. It is wonderful that social media is empowering the voice of the Malian woman: she no longer needs permission to talk about subjects of interest to her. I do not face any gender-specific obstacles in my work, perhaps because I have never considered it necessary to set any limitations for myself. But I know most women are compelled to make difficult choices daily, like choosing between their careers and their families.
Society tends to constrain women with conventional assumptions and demeaning stereotypes. But I think women should always do their best, chart their own paths, follow their dreams, including the kind of work they want to do, because everything is possible in this world for women today.”