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Listening for change: Dimitra updates from the Niger and the Democratic Republic of the Congo

Across hundreds of rural communities in sub-Saharan Africa, the Dimitra project is making a difference in the lives of rural women and men. This week, in honor of International Women's Day, we spotlight two such communities.

Certain foods used to be taboo for Adama and other women in the village of Yalosuna. But not any more. (Image © Yannick De Mol)

Fighting food taboos for women

In Yalosuna, a village in the northeastern part of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, FAO Dimitra clubs have played a role in changing people's perceptions about food taboos for women, improving food security and nutrition issues in the communities as a result. Until recently, it was forbidden for women to eat certain foods, including certain varieties of fish such as catfish. But thanks to a series of awareness-raising activities conducted by the Dimitra clubs, and to discussions within the clubs themselves, both the men and the women of these communities have decided to revisit some of these traditions.

Now, the women of Yalosuna and many other villages are allowed to eat catfish and other previously forbidden foods, which adds a new and valuable source of protein to their diets.

A multifunctional platform for multifunctional women

Far away to the north in rural Niger, the women — and men — of the village of Gasseda have good things to say about the Dimitra clubs as well. Souweyba Idé is a typical example. By becoming the moderator of a Dimitra club, Souweyba has been able to develop her potential and play a key role in her community. In fact, she was at the forefront of an important proposal developed through the village listeners' clubs — a proposal that was convincing enough to win the community a multifunctional platform (MFP) from the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).

Today, the new MFP provides a mechanized way for the villagers to peel, grind, and crush their grain, while also generating electricity. As a result, the work burden for Souweyba and other women has decreased, and they have more time for other activities such as gardening.


What are FAO Dimitra clubs?

FAO Dimitra clubs are made up of men, women and youth who come together in groups — mixed or otherwise — to organize and work towards change in their communities. Since 2008, the clubs have been set up in several sub-Saharan African countries, and meet regularly to discuss development issues and challenges, and to find solutions together.

The clubs are equipped with wind-up, solar-powered radios and, in some cases, fleets of solar-charged cell phones. As members discuss topics and share concerns, priorities and needs, their conversations are aired live on partnering radio stations or recorded for later broadcast. This stimulates discussions in other clubs — which are broadcast in turn — focusing on concrete actions that can be taken in the community and keeping the conversation going among all the Dimitra clubs in the area.

By creating a consistent, sustainable and gender-sensitive forum for information sharing and participatory communication, the Dimitra approach empowers rural people – especially women and youth. It enables them not only to have a voice, but a voice that counts.


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