Learning from broadcasters to improve women’s access to radio programs

At Farm Radio International, we learn from the broadcasters we work with and apply learnings from past projects to improve the inclusion of women in radio programming. After all, broadcasters work in radio day in and day out and know the needs of their communities best.

Broadcasters are always innovating. That’s why we try to ensure that they can learn from each other and we can learn from them. We’ve run online discussions among broadcasters about topics like gender and positive masculinities. The “This is How I” podcast, meanwhile, is a podcast produced by broadcasters for broadcasters. Our broadcasting partners offer tips and advice on a specific radio broadcasting skill to other broadcasters. Topics have included how to ensure women are included in radio programs and how to attract women listeners.

In 2019, we launched the Liz Hughes Award for Her Farm Radio to recognize radio programs that address gender equality and create opportunities for rural women’s voices to be amplified. The applicants for this award are doing extraordinary work on gender equality — work that other broadcasters can learn from. We took what we learned from those broadcasters and shared tips about addressing gender equality in radio programs (so many tips that we made a part one and part two).

But we don’t just share tips with broadcasters — we also apply what we’ve learned in our own work.

In our projects, we often run women-only Community Listening Groups and provide those groups with a mobile phone and training on how to use it. However, we’ve learned that this isn’t enough since men still dominate the phone lines. Men tend to have greater access to mobile phones and more time to repeatedly call a radio station until their call is selected. Based on what we observed in radio stations who had had success in putting more women on air, we added a separate phone line just for women. Using women-only phone lines — and making sure to give women callers equal time on air — helps ensure that women’s voices are heard on the radio.

We also learned in our AdoSanté project in Burkina Faso that it’s not enough to provide women with access to mobile phones. Many of the women listeners did not know how to read, and therefore had trouble typing the call-in number into their phone. The group leader came up with a simple solution: he wrote down the phone number on pieces of paper so that women could look at the shape of the numbers on the paper and press the matching button on their phone. Now, many of our projects hand out stickers and flyers with the number to call written on them.

We applied lessons from both these projects in our five-year project about gender equality and food security in Burkina Faso, Ghana, Mali and Senegal to continue improving women’s access to and participation in radio programs. And we’re committed to continue learning from broadcasters and community members to advance gender equality and access in the communities we serve.

This blog post is the sixth in a series about how Farm Radio International lives our values (respect, include, listen, amplify, deliver and learn) in our work. Read our full statement of values here.

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