When oil deposits were found in Western Uganda in 2006, interest in oil exploitation has put local communities at risk. Many, particularly women and children, face displacement — and everyone relies on the land for their livelihood.
That’s why the National Association of Professional Environmentalists, or NAPE, started Uganda Community Green Radio in 2014.
Despite the challenges faced by women, their voices remained mute. Aware that the stories of women went untold and underreported, the staff at NAPE set out to change that. Unlike the commercial radio station in the Bunyoro sub-region who focus on attracting big audiences and maximizing profits, the local NGO created a program to amplify the voices of rural women: the Nyinabwenge women’s program.
Recognizing excellence in gender-sensitive programming
Through the Nyinabwenge women’s program, the radio station set out to ensure women are heard, to engage them in policy-making and protection of property rights, to improve food security, and to address gender gaps.
Farm Radio International is excited to award this program the 2020 Liz Hughes Award for Her Farm Radio in recognition of its effort to amplify the voices of women and address local gender equality issues.
Runners-up for this year’s award include: RTB Gaoua (Burkina Faso), Radio Munyu (Burkina Faso), Radio Kwizera (Tanzania), Kitulo FM (Tanzania), and Fana Broadcasting Corporation (Ethiopia).
The Nyinabwenge women’s program
The Nyinabwenge program runs every Saturday evening for two hours, a time that is convenient for rural women, who are often busy during the day.
The program is aired in local languages, with Precious Naturinda as the main host and field reporter, Sara Kyeyune as a co-host, Julius Kyamanywa as the program director, and Allan Kalangi as the overall radio manager
The broadcasters address issues that are important to rural women in their area, including farming, environmental conservation, food security, domestic violence, health, and social issues.
The radio program has helped women gain confidence by recording their voices and inviting them onto the show. The women see the program as a safe space to talk about issues without fear, and as a place where they can hold their leaders accountable.
Changing the narrative for local women
“This radio has changed the lives of many women,” says Norah Bahongye, a member of the Kigaaga listener club in Kabaale village, Hoima district. She says she is happy to listen to her favourite women’s program on Saturday evenings, when she has retired from the day’s duties.
“I did not know that me as bahongye, a rural peasant farmer, can be on the radio. I thank the radio management for aiming at amplifying [the voices of] women. I have indigenous knowledge on farming, like best seed selection and pest control, which I have shared on radio, and people even come looking for me to learn.”
The program attempts to change the narrative around gender roles. The broadcasters invite gender experts, women leaders, and other inspirational people to talk about how women and men can engage in various activities irrespective of gender.
In this region, women are seen as “belonging to the kitchen, while men are at the high table.” Some women fear attending community meetings. If they attend, they often lack the confidence to speak. Men are seen as decision-makers and landowners, while women simply use the land. Women’s work is underappreciated and women often do not share in the profits of what they grow.
Amplifying women’s voices
But the broadcasters at Uganda Community Green Radio believe that they can make a difference by recording women’s voices telling their own stories and by hosting empowered women discussing how they change the status quo.
Women’s listener clubs have encouraged women to talk about the station’s radio programs as a group, and even given women the confidence to contribute to the programs.
While the Nyinabwenge program amplifies the voices of women, men are also featured on the program. The men talk about gender equality and encourage their fellow men to take a different view of women and their contributions to farming, family, and community. The program has hosted men who share their condemnation of men who deny women ownership. It has also hosted parents who have bequeathed property to their daughters, and men who condemn other men who sell their wives’ harvests. The program has also talked with men about how they can share women’s unpaid work, including cooking, cleaning, and collecting water or firewood.
“This program is really focused on rural women. It reaches out to women, and addresses a good range of issues, while also bringing men into the discussion. They are an excellent example of how a radio program can amplify the voices of women to spark discussions and even change in the community,” says Stephen Ecaat, Farm Radio’s country representative in Uganda.
Penina Ruhindi is another member of the Kigaaga listener club. She says the members of the club are putting the lessons from the radio into action.
“When we listen, we reflect on our community and identify the challenges talked about. We then try to find solutions. Like now we are taking it upon ourselves as listener club members to encourage women to gain confidence and speak up on issues affecting them and defend their rights. We encourage women to go on radio. As women, we have started practicing boundary tree planting to defend our land from grabbers.”
It’s a program Farm Radio International is excited to honour with the Liz Hughes Award, named after former board member and CBC broadcaster Liz Hughes. Liz died of cancer in 2018. In life, Liz was a dedicated journalist and leader. On our board, she spearheaded our journalistic standards work and was a champion of gender equality. We’re proud to continue that legacy through this award.
The Liz Hughes Award for Her Farm Radio is an award given by Farm Radio International to recognize radio programs that address gender equality and create opportunities to share the voices of rural women. This year’s judging panel included: Nora Young, Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) broadcaster and Farm Radio board member; Rita Houkayem, gender specialist with Global Affairs Canada; Doug Rushton, former CBC broadcaster; and Andrea Bambara, Farm Radio’s country representative for Burkina Faso.