Meet the Nicaraguan DJ tipped for top media award

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She peppers her radio baseball broadcasts with anti-domestic violence messages, is campaigning against the building of a hydro-electric dam, and has revolutionised the Nicaraguan airwaves.

She peppers her radio baseball broadcasts with anti-domestic violence messages, is campaigning against the building of a hydro-electric dam, and has revolutionised the Nicaraguan airwaves.

Yamileth Mendieta, the director of Radio Palabra de Mujer, or Woman's Word Radio, has had to adopt extreme measures in rural Central America to get her voice heard. But even she is surprised at how far it has travelled. Tomorrow night she is tipped to take one of the top honours at One World Media Awards, recognising those who highlight international issues.

Mendieta, who has travelled to Britain for the first time this week, still cannot believe that her community radio station which broadcasts to 40,000 people in the rural district of Paiwas, has been short-listed for an international prize.

Mendieta was just 14 when her mother, Carmen, an activist and founder of the first women's co-operative in the area, was killed by US-backed Contras.

Now 32, she has been carrying on her mother's work with the co-operative La Casa de la Mujer [The House of the Woman] and the radio station that was born out of its work. News, music and programmes about civil rights, gender issues, sexual and reproductive health and education are broadcast for 12 hours a day over a radius of 60km.

In a country where the print media is highly partisan, most Nicaraguans rely on radio and television broadcasts for information.

Mendieta and her colleagues turned to radio when local women wrote to the co-operative to explain that they were unable to attend workshops there because they had to look after their children and their husbands did not approve.

She said: "Through radio we can reach them. With the information we broadcast and messages we send out we can empower women."

The radio station's main campaign is against a proposed dam which would flood large tracts of the region, including the town where the station is based. The dam, in the basin of the Rio Grande de Matagalpa in Nicaragua, is part of the Plan Puebla Panama - a series of hydro-electric dams across Central America.

The station has a regular programme protesting against the project and providing the 20,000 people who will be displaced as a result of the dam with information that Mendieta says is not forthcoming from the government.

She said: "We don't want to see any more damage to the environment. We would like to continue having our own way of life. We don't want foreigners to come one more time to plunder."

Another issue which the radio station campaigns on is the "maquilas" - assembly plants run by overseas companies where Nicaraguan men and women work for a pittance. According to Mendieta, there are factories where people work in dangerous conditions, making clothes labelled "Made In China".

Although the US-sponsored counter-revolution in Nicaragua is in the past, Mendieta believes the country's troubles are far from over. "An armed war has ended, but an economic war remains of extreme poverty," she said.

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