Her Voice on Air: Speaking up and fighting drought in Ethiopia

FRI’s Karen Hampson (right) interviews Hiwot Tirfneh (centre) and other members of the Mearenet women’s radio listening group in the Tigray Region of Ethiopia. 

Nine women surround Hiwot, the leader of the Mearenet women’s radio listening group. Their group, which means equality in Amharic, regularly meets to listen to agricultural programs aired on their local radio station, Dimtsi Weyane Tigray. Now equipped with a smartphone, they are able to communicate directly with the station and share their questions, concerns, and voices on the air. Recently, their smartphone helped get them the radio broadcasts that they need to cope with severe and ongoing drought.

Hiwot’s listening group was given a smartphone as part of the Her Voice on Air project. Two women in the group with the best levels of education and literacy were trained on how to use it and send messages on behalf of the group to the radio station. Each week, the group discusses a question about the latest episode from a list of questions provided at the training. After exploring the question as a group, one of the members records an audio summary on the smartphone and sends it to the station. They also use their smartphone to respond to questions posted by the broadcaster during the program. The women have all heard themselves on the radio, which made them very happy and proud.


Hiwot Tirfney (left) with her listening group’s smartphone.

They say they want to continue listening to the radio programs and doing the recordings. They say that they have developed confidence as a result of participating in this project. Because they have been on the radio, more people recognize the contribution made by women farmers in the community and they feel more valued and valuable.

Equipped with their smartphone, the women of Mearenet are having a stronger voice in their own development — and one that is helping them survive the worst drought in decades.

Through the use of their smartphone, Hiwot’s group was able to tell their radio station about the lack of rain they were experiencing. Soon afterwards, they were listening to programs on water harvesting. This topic that they once knew next to nothing about is helping them deal with a drought that many say is the worst in 50 years.

The Her Voice on Air project is made possible with the support of the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), a specialized agency of the United Nations dedicated to eradicating poverty and hunger in rural areas of developing countries.


About the author  
Karen Hampson is FRI’s regional programs manager for East and Southern Africa. She develops new program partnerships and supports and administers FRI’s projects in Tanzania, Uganda, Ethiopia, Kenya, Malawi, and Mozambique. Talking to radio listeners is one of the most important and enjoyable parts of her job.

Want to learn more?

Get our latest news and stories.


Get our latest news and stories.