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Dimitra Workshops

Women, rural radios and new information and communication technologies

Workshop in Thies (Senegal) from 30 March to 1 April 2005

In rural areas, community radios play a fundamental role as tools for local development and for empowering women through a participatory approach. This potential needs to be developed to strengthen women’s status.

© Dimitra

At the end of March 2005, Enda-Pronat and the National Network of Rural Women of Senegal (Réseau National des Femmes Rurales du Sénégal - RNFRS) organised a 3-day workshop to formulate a project entitled, ‘Women, rural radios and new information and communication technologies’, with the support of the Dimitra Project, the FAO Extension, Education and Communication Service and the WAICENT Capacity Building and Outreach Branch.

This workshop constitutes one of the follow-up actions recommended by the Workshop “Rural Women and Land”, organised by Enda-Pronat and Dimitra in Thies in February 2003. The aim was to reinforce the internal and external communication and information capabilities of the RNFRS. This network is currently made up of 150 grassroots organisations and its secretariat is uniquely composed of rural women.

Women are under-represented in radios

Rural women have great hopes in community radio stations because they could enable them to express themselves and to make their needs known. Finding solutions to their problems could help reinforce their social position. Women are under-represented in the daily operations of the radios for various reasons, among which lack of time and illiteracy. During the dry season, women spend most of their day at the well, and after this, they are too tired to listen to any radio broadcast, no matter how important the subject matter might be.

It is vital that more women are recruited, trained and involved as radio producers and presenters, and encouraged to contribute more to the content of the broadcasts. This can be achieved by reinforcing synergies between women’s organisations and community radios. The RNFRS commitment to community radios will help bring about improved support for local development and the empowerment of women.

Synergies between women’s groups and rural community radios

For the workshop participants, this was an important opportunity to create synergies between the representatives of the RNFRS and to establish links with community radios. This would enable them in:

  • reinforcing, exchanging and communicating between grassroots organisations and decision- makers through rural radios and NICTs;
  • using the national network of rural community radios as a tool for social communication for the National Network of Rural Women of Senegal;
  • setting up radios (run by women).

Participants at the event included rural women, representatives of NGOs, AMARC and ENDA Cyberpop, the directors of the community radio stations, the written press (SUDFM, PANOS) and the two consultants who had prepared the workshop’s preliminary report. As a fi rst step on the road to progress, the workshop aimed to make radio station directors aware of gender issues and to encourage RNFRS women communicators to participate in community radio activities whilst training them in the use of this tool.

Participation and dialogue

A participatory methodology was used to identify the needs of rural women in terms of information and communication. This allowed everyone to take part in the dialogue, helped gather proposals for better use of the radio and promoted the involvement of the rural community (particularly women) in defining programmes. After taking time to reflect together, the participants highlighted other expectations, including:

  • the development of an inter-network synergy (to widen the circle between entities working in the same sector);
  • a clear identifi cation of the partners (community radios and rural women’s network); and
  • the training of women in using radio tools, and for radio broadcasters in meeting women’s needs.

Challenges

Some of the challenges mentioned during the group discussions include:

  • how farmers can make themselves heard and take advantage of other people’s experiences;
  • radio stations and telephones exist but not all villages are equipped;
  • how to resolve problems related to the isolation of the villages and the high costs of the radio services; 
  • how to resolve communication problems linked to illiteracy;
  • how to equip the women of the organisations and provide them with tools enabling them to be informed about current prices in central markets;
  • how to create community radios in disadvantaged areas and improve the telephone network.

The close of the workshop resulted in the establishment of a partnership project between the RNFRS and the rural community radios. This project will lead to the organisation of training workshops for network members and radio operators, and the setting up of systems to monitor and assess radio broadcasts.

For more information contact Enda-Pronat