This year for International Women’s Day, The Toco Times caught up with Ms Vera Edwards, the current manager at Radio Toco 106.7 FM, the only known community radio station in Trinidad & Tobago. International Women’s Day is commemorated every year on March 8 and celebrates women’s achievements, increasing visibility, and the contributions they made to society, young or old. This year’s theme is “Choose To Challenge,” which encourages women the challenge society and help “forge a gender-equal world.”
Here’s how Ms Edwards is making her mark and challenging the status quo in her position at the radio station:
What’s your position at Radio Toco, how long have you been in charge, and what’s it like running a radio station?
I am the manager at Radio Toco presently. The station is now in its 24th-year. l have been there from its inception, November 1, 1997, the greater part of which I served at a management level. In the early days during the life of Michael Als — the founder — it was easy. I just had to follow instructions and ensure that they were carried out by the staff. However, the real challenge started upon the death of Mr Als. The Toco Foundation was under new management and because the radio was underfunded [they] decided to close the station. I took over the management and together with five other staff members, decided to keep the doors open. The going was rough. At the time we had amassed a high debt of $37,000 to the telecommunications authority with regard to the [radio] license. We had to find that money plus money to pay the other bills, such as lights and telephone. Thanks to my colleagues who have given freely of our time and commitment, and members of the public, to keep it going. Then in May 2019, the tower fell from lack of maintenance. We had no money and as if that wasn’t bad enough, our transmitter also went down. We were still able to broadcast though not at our full strength. But God was good to us and sent us some financial help in advertising. Then we went off the air for a couple of months. Again God intervened and sent us help in the form of our advertising manager, who by the way is from Princess Town, and an engineer with Toco roots. They gave us a new lease on life. Today we are on the world wide web and we have cleared our debt with TATT but it doesn’t end there because I still have to worry about staffing and added internet and website bills to stay afloat. To-date the radio is still not back to full strength because we are still without a tower.
What does it mean to you being a woman running a media entity in a male-dominated industry?
Being a woman running a media house in a male-dominated industry does not present any challenges for me maybe because of where I am based and there are other women in the industry in similar positions. I think over the years women have proven that we can hold our own.
How do you plan to use your platform this year to help the community?
Our objective is to foster relations with the community and inform and educate. We have lost some ground which we hope to regain with consistent educational programmes.
As a woman heading a community radio station, what advice do you have for young women in the Toco region who are interested in leadership positions?
I have always enjoyed working with young people. To the young women interested in leadership positions l would encourage them to make themselves marketable, don’t be afraid of challenges, and lead by example.
This year’s International Women’s Day theme is “Choose to Challenge,” what does that mean to you?
Life in itself is a challenge for us as women and there is always a challenge to choose from but you have to be strong in your resolve, believe in yourself, be positive, and trust God.