Radio is changing household gender dynamics

Esther Mwangabula of Farm Radio International (right) interviews Pili Athumani (left) about her experience in the Her Voice on Air project. 

Pili Athumani is the leader of the women’s listening group in Mnung’una village in the Singida Region of Tanzania. She’s been tuning into a weekly radio program that is not only benefiting her sorghum harvest but also equalizing the division of labour within her household.

Pili AthumaniThe women in Pili’s group tune in weekly to a program on sorghum on Radio Maria using a smartphone provided as part of the Her Voice on Air project. She shyly shows us the smartphone which she keeps in its box.

Pili and her neighbours enjoy listening as a group, and discussing the weekly questions they were given during the training at the beginning of the project. They enjoy gathering together and sending their messages to the radio station.

Pili says she finds the phone system very easy to use, although she had not used a smartphone before. She sometimes calls the station to ask when their messages will be played and is proud to hear her voice on Radio Maria.

“It’s my privilege to be heard through Radio Maria. I would not sleep so that I do not miss this chance.”

Like many of her neighbours, Pili planted two improved, early-maturing varieties of sorghum — known as Masia 1 and Masia 2 — that were discussed on the program. She avoided planting early to try to avoid birds, which she also learned about on the program. Sorghum is nutritious, so Pili is growing it mostly for household consumption. However, if her children need school uniforms, she has the option of selling some as a source of income.

The husbands of the women in the listening group were not initially supportive of their wives listening to Radio Maria, as it is a Catholic station and their community is predominantly Muslim. But the women persisted in listening on their mobile phones, and the men eventually came to see the benefit of the radio program and support their wives’ participation in it.

These days Pili’s husband encourages her to listen to the radio program and reminds her to tune in. Pili says that she and her husband now share the work of the household equally. And she is not alone; in fact, the slogan of her listening group is 50/50.

Local radio programs, designed with women in mind, can provide women with the information they need to help them increase harvests and incomes. They can also share the voices of women with thousands of listeners. With the support of International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), Farm Radio International is providing  hundreds of women in Tanzania, Uganda, Ethiopia, and Malawi with the skills and confidence to tell their own story on the radio, their way, as part of the Her Voice on Air project. 

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.

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