With the income, Khatik could regularly pay salary to staff, and also get them to add new segments and radio packages to the daily broadcast. People were all cooped up at home, and they welcomed the new infotainment programs in multiple languages, and listenership grew. This meant that even more advertisers were interested to buy transmission slots.
Says Khatik: “There is this wrong notion in Nepali society that women cannot and are not capable of taking leadership positions. We have proven them wrong,” says Khatik proudly. “We have shown that we have the entrepreneurial spirit and creative ability to be even more flexible in times of crisis.”
Indeed, many other media companies in Kapilvastu are surprised how this one community radio station has not just managed to survive, but has expanded programming and its listenership.
Feminine FM, Emma Stolarski
Women on air, Kong Yen Lin
Kapilvastu Community Radio has also filled the void left by schools being closed for six months. The station mobilised teachers to conduct classes over the radio for free. Soon enough, Khatik was contacted by non-profits, local governments and the district branch of the Nepal Teacher’s Association. Today, Kapilvastu FM is broadcasting classes every day to students in Grades 4-8.
Sona Khatik’s voice is now so trusted and recognised that when she once voiced an announcement by the local police asking people to obey lockdown rules, they called to ask her to lift the lockdown because it was causing economic hardship.
“They did not realise I was just reading out a public service announcement from the police. I had not declared the lockdown myself,” smiles Khatik.
The radio team which was willing to forego half a year’s salary was now getting paid in full, so staff decided to contribute to a fund to help free feeding programs for the poorest families in the neighbourhood.
We ask Khatik why she thinks her station has thrived when other media in Nepal are struggling. She replies: “I think it is because we engage with our community, we go out into the field and record people’s voices and do not bring politicians to the studio. And I think it is also because they know it is a station run by a woman.”
It has been so hectic, that while bicycling back and forth from home to the studio one day last week, Khatik slipped and fractured her leg. There was no way she was going to be home-bound, so she uses crutches to get to the station and back.
With a chair supporting her plastered leg, Sona Khatik reminisces about the old days: “I cannot believe that it has been 12 years since I started out as an intern. Now here I am. I am reminded of how important it is to listen to your employees, no matter what their position. A good leader values every member, and recognises the importance of team work. It is more than luck that makes a company successful, especially during a crisis.”