Radio Baoulé is a dynamic radio station based in Bamako, Mali that is tackling a particularly sensitive issue: sexual and reproductive health. Their show, Keneya Blon (Health Corridor), is presented by a dedicated team that includes Awa Doumbia, Fatoumata Sacko, Broima Coulibaly, Seydou Oumar Traoré and Adizatou Touré.
The main objective of the program is to draw the attention of listeners and health personnel to the issues surrounding sexually transmitted diseases that affect both women and men, such as gonorrhea. The program primarily aims to reach young people 18 and over, married women, married men with several partners and those who use sex as a pastime without protecting themselves.
This program is part of the “HÉRÈ – Women’s Well-Being in Mali” initiative, which aims to improve the sexual and reproductive health and well-being of women and girls and to strengthen the prevention of and response to gender-based violence in Sikasso, Ségou, Mopti and the district of Bamako in Mali. The project is implemented by the HÉRÈ – MSI Mali Consortium, in partnership with Farm Radio International (RRI) and Women in Law and Development in Africa (WiLDAF), with funding from Global Affairs Canada.
Listener interactivity is an important part of Farm Radio programs, and our Uliza poll is an excellent digital tool for collecting feedback from listeners. Broadcasters announce poll questions and a number to call. Listeners call in to participate in a mobile poll and leave voice messages that can be read on air.
The Keneya Blon team at Radio Baoulé has worked hard to increase women’s participation in Uliza polls. The team organizes meetings with women’s listening groups to explain how to participate in mobile phone polls and uses the groups’ weekly meetings, savings and credit groups, and the like to help them to participate in the poll. During the Keneya Blon program, the host invites women to make calls to the Uliza poll and to the call-in segment as well. The team also hosts programs where they discuss the societal roles of women, especially in a program called “Her Voice on Air.”
Community listening groups are a safe place for women to discuss the sensitive issues shared on the radio program. A leader from the group can then call in to the program to anonymously share perspectives from group members.
For example, one group shared an anecdote from a group member who has gonorrhea but doesn’t want to speak to her husband about it for fear of being stigmatized. Using this story from the community, the radio broadcasters can address the issue, perhaps with the support of resource people. They can suggest ways to break down barriers, reduce stigma, and start conversations between men and women about sexually transmitted diseases.
In Mali, society has a tendency to label women as carriers of sexually transmitted diseases, using phrases such as “women are the most likely carriers of germs” or “women are unfaithful.”
Gonorrhea can infect the urethra, cervix, rectum, throat, mouth and eyes, and women who have the disease are very often identified first, especially by health personnel who are quick to judge them. A resource person explained how women are stereotyped in the treatment of gonorrhea and invited men to be more involved.
Radio Baoulé involves all radio staff in preparing the program, and 95% of the staff are women. The station organizes exchange spaces and created a WhatsApp group to allow staff to share their ideas while planning and preparing the program.
Many listeners say that, thanks to Radio Baoulé’s health programs, they have been able to understand themselves and the diseases that affect them. One doctor even noted an increase in people visiting in search of care and information. Radio Baoulé is a radio station that is committed to playing an important role in promoting sexual and reproductive health and in the fight against sexually transmitted diseases in Mali.
Keneya Blon (Health Corridor) was a runner-up for the 2023 Liz Hughes Award for Her Farm Radio for its efforts to address gender equality.
This story was originally published in Barza Wire, Farm Radio International’s newswire for African farm broadcasters. The Liz Hughes Award for Her Farm Radio recognizes radio programs that address gender equality and create opportunities for rural women’s voices to be amplified.