Radio: A powerful force in addressing gender inequality

Radio is a powerful force in addressing gender equality

When she comes home from the fields where she works, Diabou Wandia is sure to soap up and wash her hands before she starts dinner — and she makes sure her eight children do the same. 

It’s a simple thing, but for Diabou and many in her community, it’s a new habit. One of many, in fact, brought about through a local radio program on Radio Djimara.

“Before the programs, we only did this periodically. But now, because of the programs, we’ve adapted and it’s become a daily habit for all of the women,” says Diabou, in Pulaar, the language spoken in the area.

Diabou lives in Sare Demba Diéo, a community in the Kolda Region of southern Senegal, just south of the border with The Gambia.  

For the past few months, Radio Djimara has been broadcasting interactive radio programs on topics pertinent to the daily lives of women.

The programs are part of a larger project run by Farm Radio International in Burkina Faso, Ghana, Mali, and Senegal called Scaling Her Voice on Air. The project, funded by Global Affairs Canada, aims to improve gender equality and food security among small-scale farmers, particularly women and youth. 

Before Farm Radio began the programs, they asked women what information they would like to hear, and what types of information would improve their lives. 

In this part of Senegal, women are primarily responsible for childcare. The women in Kolda told us that a key struggle in their lives was the health of themselves and their children. Too many children were getting sick, they said, and they blamed poor hygiene and poor nutrition. 

When we listen together,
we support each other.
We understand better.

Diabou Wandia, Sare Demba Diéo

So, on a weekly basis, Radio Djimara created programming that elaborated on topics like child malnutrition and how to combat it; breastfeeding and maternal health; and hygiene practices: from simply washing hands, to how the whole community handles waste. They posed questions and took calls from local communities, like Sare Demba Diéo, where Diabou and many others listened together in a community listening group. 

After the program ends, the conversation starts. 

“We listen as a community,” says Diabou, who is also the head woman of the group. “When we listen together, we support each other. We understand better.” 

In Diabou’s group they discuss the topics of the programming, and what they can do in Sare Demba — like starting a vegetable nursery to help with their kitchen gardens and to ensure the health of their children. They ask each other questions, and they phone in new questions to the radio station to address in the next program.

It’s clear the discussions, and the radio programming, is making a difference.

“Before, when it came to children and infants, protection through washing hands, using water, soap, it wasn’t done,” says Diabou. “Before, there were many children who had diarrhea, but now, thanks to the radio programs and everything around them that we learned, and we try to practice during our housework, it has totally diminished the diarrhea.

“This year, we haven’t seen an infant with diarrhea and that is thanks to the programs.”

The project is continuing. The next series will address gender-based violence using a radio drama. Future series also aim to raise up women as leaders within their own communities, discussing power dynamics in the household, gender-transformative practices in nutrition, food security and the rights of women, as well as other topics women in these communities tell us are important. 

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.

About the author
Tara Sprickerhoff works as a communications officer for Farm Radio International. With a background in journalism, storytelling is close to Tara’s heart. Her specialties: covering orange-fleshed sweet potatoes, wildfires, and uncovering the whimsy in the everyday.

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