Radio and Women's Empowerment

Women in Niger are victim to widespread gender inequality. This is enforced by a lack of knowledge regarding their legal rights and best health practices. But radio could provide a platform for female empowerment.

Participants of research project

Women make up 52 per cent of the population in Niger. But despite this their voices are silenced from a young age. Childhood dreams of becoming doctors or teachers are replaced by the responsibilities of being a second or third wife, something which is common practice in Niger. In many cases the women here have little or no knowledge of their legal rights and fall victim to marginalisation by men. 

In many developing countries across Africa electricity is scarce and in Niger it’s no different. Electricity only reaches 15 per cent of the population here and few people have access to either electricity or television. Therefore information is scarce. But they do have radio programmes which act as a primary source of information for both men and women. 

Community radio stations can be found across the country but they don’t have the right to broadcast news. Instead they re-broadcast programmes from national and international news sources. One such source is ‘Studio Kalangou’. Established by the Swiss Foundation Hirondelle, Studio Kalangou work throughout Africa to provide vital information that can improve quality of life. This information can include how to vote and instructions for health-care and family planning. As a result of these programmes, community stations often invite NGOs and radio volunteers to give live further information sessions. 

Entire communities gather to listen to the radio show or attend live sessions. But many husbands don’t allow their wives to attend due to the mixing of genders that takes place. The result is that women miss out on fundamental information which could improve quality of life. They miss out on healthcare information which could save their life, or the lives of their children. They miss out on discovering their legal rights and how to vote. Not to mention simply missing out on social interactions.

In collaboration with Foundation Hirondelle, Emma Heywood, a lecturer and researcher in the Department of Journalism studies at the University of Sheffield, is leading research into how radio can be used to empower women. Despite being in its infancy, her research has induced major changes. It’s already encouraging women to establish female-only listening groups. 

As a result Studio Kalangou began broadcasting women only programmes in May 2018. After each one, the women in the female-only listening groups host discussions about what they’ve heard. The next steps are now being taken to get NGOs to attend the women-only discussion groups in the same way as at the community radio stations.

Armed with new information about their legal rights, family planning and healthcare these women are equipped to resist marginalisation. They are being given their voice back.

Life changing impacts

  • Women-themed radio shows broadcast by Studio Kalangou to inform women of their rights and empower them as civil society actors.
  • The project has already inspired female listeners of one community radio (Radio Scout) to create a women-only discussion group of Studio Kalangou radio programmes in a particularly deprived part of the capital.
  • Female listeners who were not previously permitted by men to attend mixed listening groups are now circumventing these male-imposed restrictions.

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