WINGS History

In 1985, Frieda Werden was offered the job of Operations Manager at Western Public Radio in San Francisco, and as an incentive she was told she could do any project of her own there she wanted. That’s where Frieda co-founded WINGS: Women’s International News Gathering Service. The project started with a list of women radio producers who had attended the third UN World Conference on Women in Nairobi, Kenya.

This was 1985 – no email, no google, no cell phones. They wrote letters to each other and tapes were sent in the mail! One tape that came from Russia couldn’t even be played on local machines – they had to unwind the tape by hand onto another reel before it could be played.

The WINGS pilot was funded by NPR’s Satellite program Development Fund and it went up on the Public Radio satellite in Spring 1986.

WINGS won the Golden Reel award from the National Federation of Community Radio Broadcasters, for the coverage of women’s conferences in 1986.

Although the mainstream media stopped covering the global women’s movement after the UN Decade for women had ended and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting stopped funding the project since “this is an idea whose time has passed”, WINGS persisted.

As it turned out, those first 10 years of the Decade for Women were just what it took for women around the world to get to talking across boundaries and realize their commonalities. These included not just women’s rights, but planetary issues like peace, economic development, and the environment.

Our WINGS slogan became “raising women’s voices through radio worldwide,” and our motto: “Today’s news is tomorrow’s history – keep women’s actions on the record!”

Operating on a shoestring compared to what public radio producers need, WINGS managed to pay the women producers and train many of them. A lot of thanks for that go to Genevieve Vaughan, the woman who called that meeting of radio women at the Nairobi conference. We built and continue building an international network of reporters and an international network of stations to carry the programs, and WINGS has now been in weekly distribution for more than 30 years.

Co-producer and Frieda’s life partner Katherine Davenport passed away in 1992, and Frieda has been the WINGS series producer since then. Since 1996, Frieda has had the companionship and moral support of her life partner Suzette Cullen and have worked with a lot of very good editors and contributing producers around the world.

Suzette helped Frieda put on a Women’s Media Camp on the island where they live in 2015.

Mindy Ran is a freelance journalist and audio/video producer with two decades experience of reporting on human rights, press freedom and justice issues from her base in Amsterdam. She is working on updating WINGS and is slowly taking over management of the series as Frieda ages.

Michèle Schuler has long time experience in running small non for profit organizations in the Netherlands. She will be responsible for (maintenance of) the website and social media and in the future managing the office.

This is the new website, but you can still find the website and archive that was built for us in 1994 at wings.org.

WINGS also has a Facebook page – facebook.com/wingsradio – where we post lots of the many news items about women that come our way.

Interview with Frieda Werden 2006