The radio host and climate ecologist spreading hope in Sudan.
Marwa Khalid premiered her show “Let’s have a Chat” at the tail end of the revolution in Sudan in 2019. With it, the radio host aims to instil hope and positivity in the youth of a country still in the throes of socio-economic and democratic reform.
by Tatenda Kanengoni, bird story agency
As is routine, 35-year-old Sudanese radio host Marwa Khalid says an early morning prayer before putting together her outfit for the day. This is a regular work day in the south of Khartoum, where Khalid lives but it’s a special day for her, as she’s scheduled to record an episode of her viral show, ‘Let’s Have a Chat,’ hosted on the nation’s largest radio network, Beladi FM.
“I go to the station two hours before the recording and ensure the studio is ready and clean. I put flowers to make sure the studio smells nice, then I select songs for the show and learn my script,” Khalid explains.
With everything in place, she is ready to welcome her guests – and to belt out her signature introduction, “Always remember that there is hope …you are the change you want to see in the world.”
The show invites Sudanese guests and members of the international community in Sudan to share their work and success stories, innovations, developments, and breakthroughs.
The episodes serve as a much-needed ‘pick me up’ for Khalid, who is happy to extend the same upliftment to her fellow Sudanese during a confused and often confounding period following the people’s revolt that in April 2019 culminated in a coup, deposing President Omar al-Bashir, who had ruled for 30 years.
Building positivity is the central premise of her show and it’s what she believes to be her life’s purpose.
“After high school, I studied science; I specialized in advanced ecology, including climate change, pollution, and all those things. I was so passionate about science I traveled all around Sudan; we studied about climate change and how we can help,” she explains.
Science came naturally for Khalid, the fifth in a family of six – all medical doctors. But she could not shake off the lingering feeling that she was destined to follow a different path.
“All my brothers and sisters are smart and studied medicine. It was like a line for the family…for me; it was something I thought I was supposed to do, to make my family proud,” she narrates.
“I always believed that everyone was created to do something in this world, we all are here for a reason, and for a long time, I did not understand why I am here, should I make my family proud, or follow my dream?”
Khalid encountered her purpose after taking an English course to become more fluent in the language and applied to work at the English newspaper, Sudan Vision, in 2018.
“I loved the media atmosphere [and] I started to realise that I could do more through writing articles. So, I started writing stories that tell the world about Sudan even though I had never written anything in my life,” Khalid says with a chuckle.
While slowly finding her feet and falling in love with her new craft, the newspaper struggled with ratings. Khalid felt she could not let her new glimmer of hope die – and saw this as an opportunity to exert her creative energy in helping to revitalize the paper.
“I wanted to help the newspaper because their rating was not that high. So, I did what I called ‘three-step therapy’, which consisted of fixing the content, engaging with the community, and asking them what they wanted to read in our newspaper. Then I started applying that feedback to develop the newspaper, and I was promoted to the management team,” Khalid explains.
However, her joy was short-lived when the newspaper, together with other news outlets that had been critical of the former regime and of the military’s power grab, was shut down. However, thanks to the connections she had made through the newspaper, all was not lost.
Khalid connected with colleagues she had met at Beladi FM during her tenure with Sudan Vision, and they were keen to give her a platform to spearhead her own show, delivered in English. That’s how ‘Let’s Have a Chat’ was born.
“We ran a few pilot episodes to try the idea. The station said, ‘we are keen to keep the cooperation,’ and this told me that my journey has not ended yet,” she says.
In light of the atmosphere in the country following the revolution, it was important to Khalid that the show reflected the aspirations of the young people in Sudan and spoke to their potential. She wanted it to serve as a vehicle for hope.
“The inspiration for the show is Sudan. I am inspired by the revolution that happened. Young people led it; more than 70% of Sudan’s population is between the ages of 25 and 30, and they are determined and strong and are fighting for a better Sudan. If you had been around and seen how people were dedicated to making a change in Sudan in 2019 by all means, in their daily lives, how everyone who had an idea wanted to propose it, you felt like you needed to play a part,” Marwa recalls.
In her own way, Khalid became an agent of change. Her 52-minute pre-recorded show – the only one delivered in English at the station – is simulcast on 60 stations around Sudan, reaching as far as the border of Sudan. It is picked up by some stations in Central Africa and parts of Egypt.
In October 2021, Khalid recorded the 100th episode of the show and celebrated by creating a video reel featuring some of her highlights and stand-out guests from the show. She recalls two in particular.
“I had a young man, Bakry Osman, who became a country director for Sayara International at the age of 32. Another guest that comes to mind is a 24-year-old lady who lost both arms and has gone on to become a phenomenal visual artist. She actually changed my life because she made me realise that we never appreciate life like we are supposed to,” Khalid says.
Osman appeared on two episodes titled ‘spreading positivity among the youth’ and ‘the role of the media in misinformation.’
“It was quite a positive experience with Marwa; I felt welcomed, and it was such a friendly vibe. It’s difficult to balance professionalism with friendliness, and I found that quite unique,” Osman says.
The reactions from listeners have also been affirming for Khalid.
“I have had feedback from people living in IDP camps; they said to me, ‘we wait for the show because we don’t have phones, we don’t have internet, we don’t have Facebook, but we wait to listen in this area,’ It was amazing,” Khalid says.
Elsayed Abdalla Mohamed Ibrahim, editor of Khartoum Today newspaper, attests to the impact of Khalid’s work.
“I have followed Marwa Khalid since her work with Sudan Vision. Marwa represents and reflects the possibilities in Sudan. she utilises the media to tackle community problems like discrimination, racism, and tribalism. She promotes women empowerment through hosting prominent women on air and reflects the prestigious image of Sudan to the world,” Ibrahim says.
Now on 120 episodes and counting, it seems there is no stopping the Marwa Khalid media train, and as long as she builds positivity, she considers hers a life well lived.
“Whatever platform I will be on; TV, podcast, anything related to creating positive media, I will be a part of. If I can be a part of something that can make life better, to help people reach their full potential, mission accomplished.”
bird story agency