15 million listeners tune in to weekly programs on gender equality

A woman listens to a radio program on her phone in Sare Samba Netty in Senegal

Since 2018, Farm Radio International has been implementing the Scaling Her Voice on Air project in four West African countries (Ghana, Burkina Faso, Senegal and Mali) to improve gender equality and food security of small-scale farmers living in poverty, particularly women and youth. With funding from Global Affairs Canada, we have been using interactive radio to share good and gender-sensitive agricultural information and challenge inequalities between women and men.

Now that we are more than three years into the five-year project, we have some exciting achievements to share, as well as a roadmap to ensure we stay on track until the project wraps up in 2023.

Here are some highlights from the project so far:

  • 73 radio stations trained on how to develop high-quality, gender responsive, and sustainable agriculture radio programs 
  • 696 quality episodes created
  • 14.9 million listeners 

Excellent listening rates

The Scaling Her Voice project incorporates Farm Radio’s own Uliza services, which combine radio, mobile phones and interactive voice response systems to enable listeners to communicate and exchange information with their radio station quickly, easily and free of charge.

We conducted a survey of community listening groups in each country to understand how often listeners tune into their local radio broadcasts and whether they have been participating in interactive elements.

Our surveys show excellent listening rates from these communities:

  • Burkina Faso: 94%
  • Mali: 95%
  • Sénégal: 85%

“We know the broadcasts are on Tuesday evenings, so as a community we prepare ahead of time, and finish our work early,” says Siranding Sabalé, a farmer from Sare Samba Netty in Senegal. 

We also counted a total of 124,331 interactions over the phone by program listeners, with 73 per cent of women respondents saying they felt more confident in using ICTs to amplify their voices.

In Ghana, Farm Radio’s work on the project takes a more “hands-off approach.” There we are working with radio stations in the country to help them develop their own self-lead, self-directed radio programs — supported by tools and resources that Farm Radio provides. The hope is that these “Green Leaf Magazines” can continue long into the future after the program has ended. These types of programs are also in the process of being scaled out to the other three countries. 

“We know the broadcasts are on Tuesday evenings, so as a community we prepare ahead of time, and finish our work early.”

Siranding Sabalé, Senegal

Adwoa Nyibi is a small-scale farmer in the Bono East Region of Ghana who has learned some of her farming techniques through the Scaling Her Voice radio program and from her community’s agricultural extension officer.

“The extension staff who introduced me to new technologies and best agricultural practices help me to do proper planting once the rains start,” she said, adding that her yield has been improving every year. “Some men become jealous when they realize that the produce of women farmers on small pieces of land yield better than theirs on large pieces of land.”

In Ghana, 95 per cent of surveyed listeners reported an increased knowledge of agriculture and nutrition practices thanks to the programs, while 72 per cent are trying out good practices like Adwoa. 

In Mali, Burkina Faso and Senegal, we saw even stronger indicators: 89 per cent of men and 85 per cent of women surveyed in listening communities indicated that they are trying out good practices. 

Positive effect on gender-transformative practices

Radio programming plays a leading role in challenging and transforming social norms that maintain gender inequality. Using techniques like radio dramas to address sensitive topics, and ensuring that women direct the focus of the programming, means that radio can challenge societal norms as well as prove directly relevant to the lives of local women. 

Our midterm results show community listening groups in Burkina Faso, Mali, and Senegal say the radio programs had a positive effect on gender transformative practices:

  • 93.5 per cent said it helped improve women’s access to land
  • 96 per cent said they helped reduce gender based violence
  • 95 per cent said they helped increase joint decision-making
  • 96 per cent said it meant an Improvement in the sharing of chores

And, it means that men can be part of the solution. The use of interactive and entertaining — and on occasion using fictional — scenarios to showcase new ways of thinking ensure that men are also changing their opinions.

“With us, it is difficult for women to own land. Rather, she works part of her husband’s field. This is why many men fail to understand that women [can] own land. But with the support of the sensitizations, the customary chiefs are beginning to understand.”

Daouda Traoré, Listening Group Member, Mali

Daouda Traoré is a facilitator of a listening group in Sikasso, Mali. He explains that traditional customs continue to block women’s access to and ownership of land, but that the radio programs are helping to address this inequity.

“With us, it is difficult for women to own land,” he said. “Rather, she works part of her husband’s field. This is why many men fail to understand that women [can] own land. But with the support of the sensitizations, the customary chiefs are beginning to understand.”

Our vision for sustainability

One important goal of the Scaling Her Voice project is to lay the groundwork for a social franchise model of radio programming that lasts long after project funding runs out. In Ghana, we have piloted this approach through the Green Leaf radio magazine program: an innovative series in which each episode incorporates seven segments tailored to meet local farmers’ needs.

We have achieved some success in developing partnerships with stakeholders directly involved in the fields of gender equality and food security in rural communities, particularly in Ghana, but there is definitely more work to be done.

Currently, we are looking at replicating the best models for success in this area in Burkina Faso, Mali and Senegal.

Farm Radio is working to systematize investment among a network of stations so that programs can remain on air for years to come. We are also supporting radio stations to find the best ways to market their services at the local, regional and national levels.

Working with existing broadcasters, and building their capacities, means that in the future should any emergencies arrive we can work with our network of broadcasting partners immediately — ensuring that no matter what happens, pandemics, drought, or new crop innovations, listeners get needed information instantly.

The road ahead

As we enter the fourth year of the Scaling Her Voice project in West Africa, we look forward to building upon our successes and reflecting on lessons learned so far.

As the last two years of the pandemic have shown, radio continues to be a powerful force for good in rural Africa. Radio is an effective and efficient way to share knowledge, amplify voices, and support positive change – particularly when it comes to gender equality.

As Alassane Dia, the director of Timtimol FM in Senegal said: “We cannot thank Farm Radio International enough. They are one of the few partners that helps us build our capacity and then gives us the means to put these capacities into practice. I hope we can continue to persevere and make this project a success.”

The Scaling Her Voice on Air project aims to bring improved interactive radio services to Burkina Faso, Ghana, Mali, and Senegal, reaching more than 7 million small-scale farmers to improve food security and gender equality. The Government of Canada, through Global Affairs Canada, is supporting the project with a grant of $5 million over the five years of the project.

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