Over four weeks in February and March, more than 150 radio broadcasters from 23 countries gathered online for an in-depth discussion about interactive radio, exchanging messages and ideas on Barza — Farm Radio International’s online community for radio broadcasters.
Together with Farm Radio mentors and mediators, the participants explored what it means to have listeners contribute to on-air discussions and how tools such as mobile phones and social media can be used to give all listeners — and women especially — a much-needed voice.
Gender was the focus of the third week of the e-discussion. Broadcasters were asked to reflect on the challenges of getting more women’s voices on air and solutions they’ve thought of or tried.
Often it’s men who control the money or access to technologies like radio and mobile phones. As one broadcaster pointed out, women often lack the “money to buy airtime to make calls and give a contribution, while others have to seek their husband’s permission to take part.”
Broadcasters also pointed to cultural barriers. In many African societies, women are encouraged to be quiet and to avoid expressing their own opinions. This explains why women are less likely to call into a radio show to begin with. And the fact that there are also very few female broadcasters certainly doesn’t help.
Thankfully, broadcasters had lots of ideas to share about how to overcome some of these challenges. One broadcaster suggested doing research to learn when women are less busy with household chores and other responsibilities and broadcasting (or rebroadcasting) at those times to increase the likelihood of them being free to listen and interact.
At Radio Fatou, in Mali, female broadcasters host shows dedicated to women listeners, including a show called Sènè (Agriculture in Bambara) that discusses women’s farming issues and is broadcast when women can tune in.
Broadcasters also reflected on the opportunity they have to control the gender balance of their programs through the interview they record and air. They have an important role to play in helping more women’s voices be heard. It was also suggested that women who are interviewed are asked for their contact information, should they be willing to get a call later on for a follow-up interview or on-air discussion.
Of course, women-only phones lines are also a great way to encourage participation from female listeners. Farm Radio International has helped several of its broadcasting partners implement this strategy.
For radio to serve its listeners, they have to hear themselves on the air. By continually learning about the obstacles to participation that women and other underserved groups face, the broadcasters who took part in this Barza discussion are working to make radio a more engaging and effective tool for all listeners.
* This is an adaptation of the following articles from Barza Wire, Farm Radio International’s weekly news service for broadcasters: