The power of radio for women’s movements

Grace Gaywood | Apr 12, 2017
Evelyn from LIWOMAC in Liberia presenting on the radio
A lot of us tune into the radio for music and podcasts but in remote locations like those where our partners work, radio is a fundamental tool to reach large audiences of women at low cost.

Radio plays such an important role for women’s movements to communicate about women’s rights, gender equality and initiate positive open dialogues where women can express themselves freely.

For many of our partners across Africa, Asia and Latin America, radio is helping to tackle issues such as Female Genital Mutilation (FGM), other forms of violence against women, and promoting women’s political participation and leadership. Thanks to the commitment of grassroots women’s groups, word is spreading through urban and rural areas so that women know their rights, and can claim them.

Radio for women’s movements in Africa

For our partners, Zimbabwe Women Lawyers Association (ZWLA), the Federation of Women’s Lawyers (FIDA) in Kenya and the Women’s Legal Aid Centre (WLAC) in Tanzania, radio has become a lifeline to engage with women and girls in rural communities. As a result of radio campaigns, women have sought out our partners’ essential services, just from hearing about them on the airwaves. Women on average spend 2.5 more time on unpaid care and domestic chores and often can’t leave the home to attend meetings or meet with friends so radio provides a means to be in the know for those who are at home performing their #InvisibleWork.

Women in these countries still face significant discrimination and gender inequality. This is even more of a problem in rural areas where communities are often bound by Harmful Traditional Practices and traditional gender norms. With the help of radio, women’s rights organisations are reaching vulnerable women who otherwise would not have access to this information, for example those who are living with illiteracy or a disability and women who are living in abusive relationships.

In Zimbabwe, radio is the main source of news and information for most people, with the majority of stations broadcasting programmes in three languages; English, Shona and Ndebele – some even airing shows in “Shinglish” - a dialectic mix of Shona and English. Here, radio is the fastest and most inclusive form of communication. As well as holding workshops and training courses on women’s legal rights and empowerment, our partner ZWLA uses radio broadcasts on stations such as Star FM Zimbabwe and Nehanda Radio to provide information about women’s legal rights.

Radio to fight violence

Our partner FIDA Kenya uses stations like Radio Kalya to broadcast information on women’s political participation, access to justice and to eliminate harmful practices such as FGM and early and forced marriage. The station reaches up to 1.4 million listeners and has helped people to access justice for violence via legal aid from FIDA. One woman said: “I listened to a programme on FGM awareness and found the training very helpful and from this decided to take a stand and not have my daughter cut.” She now works with women’s groups to combat FGM in churches and local religious communities.

Supporting refugees through radio

For our partner WLAC in Tanzania, Radio Kwizera has proven to be a vital tool to communicate women’s rights. In 2016, 54 programmes were broadcast on women’s rights, holding discussions on FGM, the refugee crisis and women’s rights in marriage, ownership of land, child law and criminal procedures. WLAC used the broadcast to distribute information about WLAC services in refugee camps and services to the host communities.This proved to be a successful tool with at least 62 individual women accessing services hearing about WLAC through radio.

Future of radio for women’s movements in Africa

With enough radio sets for 1 in 12 people in African countries such as Zimbabwe, it is no wonder radio provides a platform for women’s movements and organisations to bring communities together and promote a positive open dialogue on women’s rights.
As the women’s rights movement continues to flourish in Africa, so does the use of radio as a tool to fight for women’s rights to be respected and realised. The evidence from our partners alone indicates that the demand for their services increases after radio broadcasts. FIDA Kenya found that through its radio broadcasts, it has reached approximately 90,000 people in areas which have high rates of FGM and early child marriage.

That small box in the corner of the room can be a lifeline for many marginalised women across the world. Radio provides an accessible channel of communication, not only for women’s rights organisations, but for many grassroots organisations helping people to know and claim their rights.

Find out more about our partners' work in Kenya, Tanzania and Zimbabwe.

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