When I spoke to Aisha Salaudeen, she had just released the first episode of her ‘I like girls‘ podcast and she sounded excited on the virtual call.
“I like girls” she says, “explores the experiences that women on the continent go through”. “You know the experience of a woman in Lagos, Nairobi, is definitely going to differ from the one in the US or the Netherlands, just because of our culture and location,” she further explained.
The theme of the podcast is not surprising. Like me, many who have followed Aisha’s work at CNN and her posts on social media would describe her as a young lady who is passionate about women’s rights.
But when I asked her if this reputation made her the best person to host this kind of podcast, she objected and said the podcast is not particularly a revolutionary idea.
“I did not start this podcast because I was the best person. I felt like women need as many platforms as possible to tell their stories,” she said. “We have some of these platforms, but they are not enough. So I felt I know all these women, I have these networks and experiences, so why can’t I get them to share it?”
Prior to the release of the debut episode on ‘medical gaslighting’, Aisha had gathered close friends and associates to an emergency listening party to launch the podcasts series.
Following the success of the party and the positive reception that the podcast had received, Aisha chats with NewsWireNGR’s Oladele Owodina on how she made a women-focused podcast for everyone’s listening.
This interview has been edited and condensed for length and clarity.
Tell us about the podcast
The podcast is a narrative storytelling podcast. This means that unlike the regular question-and-answer format of a podcast, this is like an audio documentary that follows the trajectory of a guest or character. So think of a documentary that is audio where the guest is the one telling their story while the host, a voiceover, only comes in to clarify things and give it context.
And it is a podcast about the experiences that women on the continent go through. You know the experience of a woman in Lagos or Nairobi is definitely going to differ from the one in the US or the Netherlands, just because of our culture and location. So it is showcasing how our experiences are different.
Why did you start this podcast?
There are two major reasons. The first is that I feel like women need as many as possible platforms to tell their stories. We have some of these platforms, but they are not enough. So I felt I know all these women, I have these networks and experiences, so why can’t I get them to share it?
Second, I wanted an audio platform because I felt it was important to explore a different storytelling form.
Our lives are a collection of different moments, was there that particular event that happened that made you feel; I need to start a podcast for women?
There was no specific moment that triggered it, it had always been in my subconscious that I would tell the stories of women, I just did not know what format or how. But that goal has always been there. That is why in my reporting, there have always been a lot of reports about women and their experiences.
So the podcast was just me thinking of how well I can share the report of women, especially in a format that I had not done. That birthed the idea of the podcast. I just woke up and thought, this is a nice way to tell these stories in a different format.
It was not like something triggered it; it was just me thinking of how else I can tell these stories.
The name ‘I like Girls’ catches attention, what is the backstory?
We had so many names when we were looking to name the podcast. I had like 20 names, but my team did not really like some of the suggestions. Also, I was concerned about the perfect name to showcase that I really like women and want to share their stories. There was something like ‘I like women’ but I was not so comfortable, so I tweaked it until I settled for ‘I like girls’. Luckily, it was not taken on social media, so I settled for it because of its uniqueness.
The first episode of the podcast was on ‘Medical gaslighting’, why do you think it was a worthy topic to discuss?
First of all, I learnt of it from a personal experience that I had but I did not know that it was common or there was a name for it.
So it happened that I was having a conversation with my mum and she said it has been happening and that it was even common with women in her age group, the 50s. I asked around, and they told me this thing I am talking about is called medical gaslighting and it is when doctors do not believe you because they think you are exaggerating.
When I realised that it was a common thing that even had a term, I thought it would be cool to talk about it in the podcast because there are women like me who think it is not popular. But it surprised me that when I asked people if they have witnessed it before, many people said they had. So I felt like it was important to discuss it on the podcast.
What other topics are lined up?
We have recorded all the episodes and all we are waiting for is to put it together. We have topics like feminism, religion, polygamy, colorism and others. We would go in depth with the topics.
‘I like girls’ is mirroring African women’s issues, but in recent times, we have similar platforms. What difference are you bringing with your podcast?
To be honest, this podcast is not particularly revolutionary because there are already podcasts that talk about women’s issues. But what is interesting about this podcast is its format. It is not like a regular interview format; it is a format of narrative storytelling, where you let them talk, go into their lives and only come in.
So it is different because there are not many podcasts in Nigeria that explore the narrative form. The format is what makes it unique.
Who are the people that you are making the podcast for?
We have made the podcast for everyone. It is on radio and we know that everyone listens to radio, so we have done it in a way that when there are medical terms or other technical terms, there is someone to explain.
For example, the first topic is medical gaslighting. I did not know what that word was until a few weeks ago. So the stories are told in very simple ways and it does not matter if you are a man, or in your 40s or 50s.
It is also recorded in such a way that is not confusing at all. For example, the episode on feminism is not arguing with you that feminism is the best thing. We just got a bunch of women and told them, you said you are a feminist, tell us the backstory, tell us why you are a feminist. So anyone can listen to that and understand why she took the decision because you now know her life story and you understand why she took the decision.
Are you the best person to host this kind of podcast considering your journalism background and passion for women’s rights?
I did not start this podcast because I was the best person. It was just that I had the right tools, and I had the right team at the right time. And my background as a journalist gave me access to a lot of women.
What challenges have you faced so far in creating and distributing the podcast?
Well, I will say Nigerians and Africans generally do not have a podcast culture. When you think about storytelling, people would rarely mention podcasts. They would mention radio, tv, and documentary before they mention podcasts. So it is a very big challenge because people still do not understand how podcasts work or what a podcast is.
So what that means is that when you make a fantastic podcast, not many people would listen because they do not just know what it is. And there is the challenge of internet access as well. Some would be like why would I spend 25 minutes on Spotify and use my data.
Also, a podcast exhausts resources. You know you have to get a team; you have to get an audio-engineer; you have to get a scriptwriter, an editor. There are a lot of things and we know how journalism and storytelling are in Nigeria. It is not the easiest thing to do.
What are the contemporary issues women face in Nigeria and Africa.
Women face a lot of issues and I think one that encompasses everything is the gender stereotype. There is already a perception of what women should be like, and some women are also guilty of this.
Right from when we were growing up, women were told to act a certain way. You cannot play football if you are a woman, you have to be in the kitchen. It does not matter if you have the talent to be the next Asisat Oshoala, your own is to just be washing the plates.
You are already limited because you do not have the option of choice. So what if I want to wash plates and play football at the same time? People are constantly boxing women up and that is how medical gaslighting came because people say women are dramatic and over-exaggerate.
What is the nearest objective for this podcast… will it run for 5 years?
There are millions of women in Africa and millions of stories to explore. So we can continue to make as many stories as possible because we can never exhaust the stories of women.
What I want to happen is that the podcast becomes a community or association for women where we are even amplifying women’s challenges outside Spotify. So in the next couple of years, I am hoping that it evolves to something else.
Who knows, it might become a magazine or book documentary but I am thinking about it beyond the podcast. Again, I am trying to take it easy because we just started. But I definitely see a documentary coming soon, a book compilation of some of these stories. Maybe after a couple of seasons.
How can people subscribe to the podcast?
We have a website ilikegirls.co The website has links that go directly to our streaming platforms, Apple, Google podcast. We are also on Instagram, LinkedIn and Twitter at Ilikegirlspod. We will be using Twitter Spaces to further the conversation.
What do you promise your subscribers?
I promise them new angles for stories from different women across the continent. We have stories from women in Nigeria, Botswana, and these stories would be told in an interesting format that they are not used to.