Celebrating the 25th anniversary of 24-hour International Women’s Day programming at KFAI

In India, women will play in a women’s soccer festival to celebrate International Women’s Day. In Mexico, they will attend a conference on women’s health. In Switzerland, they will walk to raise awareness for gender equality. On March 8, women worldwide will host events celebrating the accomplishments of women and advocating for their rights.

Closer to home, Twin Cities community radio station KFAI will mark the 25th anniversary of providing 24 hours of all-women’s programming.

The observance is part of a global event that has its roots in the early 1900s, when Socialist movements gained ground in Europe and in the United States, partly in response to the effects of industrialization, capitalism and urbanization. First held in 1911, International Women’s Day (IWD) has grown in prominence, especially in the last few decades. Today, some countries celebrate it as an official holiday, some have adopted it as a mother’s day, some use it to celebrate the achievements of women, while others use it to advocate on behalf of human and women’s rights.

International Women’s Day on KFAI, which is organized by a small group of women volunteers, has a taste of all these traditions.

“We want to highlight and showcase the diversity of women’s issues,” said Dixie Treichel, a volunteer on the planning committee who will host “Over the Edge: Women Sonic Explorers” to kick off the day’s programming. Treichel argued that women’s voices and perspectives are still sorely lacking on the radio and in the mainstream media.

“I can’t tell you how different it is to listen to 24 hours of women’s voices and then switch over to the mainstream media the next day,” said Treichel, who is part of the Fresh Fruit Collective and who hosts a monthly LGBT show on KFAI. “You just realize how male-oriented perspectives are in the mainstream media.”

Music, issues and more

There are a couple of requirements for hosting a one- to two-hour International Women’s Day show on KFAI: The show must be related to women’s issues and, while men may play a supporting role, only women are allowed on air.

It’s hard to pack more diverse women’s programming into 24 hours. For example, this year’s shows will range from “Save Your Baby’s Life” on breastfeeding in the African-American and American Indian communities and “Life After Brain Injuries” to “Transgender & Genetic Women Reality,” “The Millennial Black Woman” and “Without a Breast of Comedy.”

Meanwhile, “Ordinary Women, Extraordinary Journeys” offers stories of Twin Cities women building thriving communities, and the “Goddess Hour” offers musings and music from the feminine divine.

Other programs showcase music written and performed by women, such as “Insprando Transformaces” (Brazilian women), “Torch Music” (intimate performances) and “Fabulous Women and Fabulous Music” (global women artists’ dance music). The recurring IWD show “Winyan Dowanpi” showcases compositions written and performed by American Indian/Indigenous women in styles such as traditional, classical, blues, jazz and rock.

Jewell Arcoren, a program director at the First Nations Composer Initiative – which encourages music composition among American Indians nationwide – has been involved in IWD programming at KFAI for several years and has co-hosted “Winyan Dowanpi” (which means “the women are singing” in the Dakota language).

“We get so stereotyped in music,” Arcoren said. “It’s like we have a drum or a flute, and that’s what we are supposed to be in music. When, in fact, we have so much more diversity than that, we have so much more range.”

This year Arcoren is passing the hosting baton to Annette Joy Whitener and Georgia Wettlin Larsen. Wettlin Larsen said she wants to co-host “Winyan Dowanpi” in order to “shatter mainstream stereotypes about Native music.”

‘Amazing, inspiring’

Bringing together women across cultures is part of the day’s mission, which is why the planning committee aims for breadth. And in the spirit of collaboration, women volunteers mentor program hosts who want to develop a brief show, and volunteers help one another engineer live programs.

Rmay Rivard, an artist and a KFAI volunteer, has provided many services for IWD programming such as mentoring other women and engineering several shows. Again this year, she will host her own show, “Many a Woman’s Voice,” on daughters and mothers.

“I never would have had an opportunity to listen to those amazing women if it hadn’t crossed into my world at KFAI,” Rivard said, “because it’s just not my world, but it was just wild! Amazing. Inspiring.”

That’s what the women who plan International Women’s Day at KFAI are going for.

KFAI Radio: 90.3 FM (Minneapolis) or 106.7 FM (St. Paul)