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Communication approaches


Rural radio

Radio remains the most powerful, and yet the cheapest, mass medium for reaching large numbers of people in isolated areas. Thanks to the revolution of the transistor, even the remotest villages have access to rural radio, which builds on the oral tradition of rural populations. Although men own the majority of radio receivers, women can listen to programmes at home in the evenings when the main chores of the day are finished.

Radio is an important tool for the rapid diffusion of important messages on new agricultural production ideas and techniques as well as on health, nutrition, family planning and other social and cultural issues. Combined with other media, it can be used for training and the transfer of technologies. It can promote dialogue and debate on the major issues of rural development as well as providing a platform for the expression of rural women's needs, opinions and aspirations. Radio enables women to voice their concerns and speak about their aspirations with external partners such as national policy-makers and development planners. Finally, radio is a tool that can be used to develop community cohesion and solidarity. Community involvement is fundamental for the successful use of radio with rural populations. Radio programmes are most effective when produced with audience participation, in local languages and with consideration for cultural traditions. Successful features include live public shows, quizzes and village debates.

Community-based radio

Democratization, pluralism and deregulation policies adopted in many developing countries, together with the decreasing cost of FM transmitters, have favoured the proliferation of local community radio stations. In Mali alone there are more than 75 radio stations, established by private individuals, associations, local communities and commercial, religious and political organizations. Community stations treat issues concerning the everyday life of their listeners and also promote local development. They are an important channel for the motivation and education of women and they raise consciousness of gender issues as well as informing women about their rights. They offer rural women the opportunity to use the microphone to talk about the issues that interest them and they play women's music that is seldom heard elsewhere. More and more women are receiving training in the programming and management of community-based radio stations so that the programmes can reflect their real needs.



According to one woman radio listener in Kodialanida, Mali:

"The station has helped us understand the importance of literacy for our commercial activities. It has encouraged the women to devote more time to this. To begin with, we worked separately but, after listening to radio programmes, we had the idea of coming together in an association. Other women have done the same and have been successful. They have listened to the advice given by radio stations that have made themselves accessible and have been open to questions from the listeners."

Another listener in Kodialanida commented further:

"The radio station has brought about a genuine change in the everyday lives of villagers. It has prompted a qualitative change in farming techniques (helping in the selection of the best seed varieties, cotton processing and following the farming calendar). It has also brought about a change in attitudes: individualism has given way to a community spirit and the popularity of home improvements has increased as a result of programmes broadcast on this subject. The radio station has also been a great help to people striving to master water purification and treatment methods. And, it has increased enthusiasm for literacy. Generally speaking, it has helped greatly in raising awareness."



The Platform for Action of the Fourth World Conference on Women (Beijing, 1995) identified the mass media as having great potential to promote the advancement of women and the equality of women and men. In particular, it states that "television especially has the greatest impact on young people and, as such, has the ability to shape values, attitudes and perceptions of women in both positive and negative ways." Indeed, television is a prestigious, powerful and empowering tool that can raise awareness, generate discussion and increase knowledge. It is an important channel for advocacy, for drawing policy-makers' attention to the potential of rural women and for promoting the inclusion of appropriate strategies on development agendas. Although television is not generally available to communities in very isolated rural areas, increasingly in many developing countries it is becoming a reality in the countryside.

With increasing urbanization, television can be an important means to reach women audiences who have come to the city from rural areas. A striking example of the use of television for social change was the Soul City drama series in South Africa. These television programmes were aimed at young women in lower-income groups and dealt with priority maternal and child health topics in addition to the empowerment of women and communities, social issues and HIV/AIDS awareness. Drama captures people's imagination like no other television format, and the half-hour episodes used the power of drama to impart health education messages. This technique, known as "edutainment", conveys educational messages through an entertainment programme. Broadcast on prime time on the most popular channel in South Africa, the Soul City series attracted a large and loyal audience.



The World Association of Community Radio Broadcasters (AMARC) unites participatory radio stations from all over the world and contributes to the development of the community radio movement. In 1992, it established the women's international network, WIN, to link women working in participatory radio. The objectives of WIN are to encourage the exchange of expertise and information among women working in community radio around the world; provide training for women; identify funding for the network as well as specific women's projects; and create a code of ethics to guarantee the equal treatment of women working in AMARC member radio stations. Under the theme "Women Grab the Microphone", the Seventh AMARC Conference (Milan, 1998) dedicated a day to WIN and the publicizing of women's needs in different regions.

In Asia and Africa, women see basic radio training, including training on broadcasting legislation and radio management skills, as the most urgent requirement. In Latin America and the Caribbean, women prefer to focus on fundraising and gender perspectives. One common issue is the need for more technical skills, training of trainers and production of training materials in different languages.


Audiovisual media

Low-cost audio and visual media, such as video, slide sets, filmstrips, audiocassettes and flipcharts, are valuable tools to motivate and assist in training groups. These technologies have been improving and developing over the years, and equipment is now cheaper, lighter, battery-operated and portable, thus making it suitable for use with women in rural areas. Audiovisual media can be used with women effectively at convenient times and places: women farmers do not have the time or money to travel to training centres and, for cultural reasons, often cannot attend training sessions with men.

Audiovisual training materials can be brought to women in their villages and shown to them in the hours in which they are free from their tasks of caring for the home, producing food or earning income. When this is not possible, special arrangements can be made to enable women to attend training sessions with men. For example, in the Central African Republic, slide sets on the identification and treatment of cattle diseases were shown in the villages of Islamic Peuhl cattleowners. Women and men watched the programmes together by placing a transparent screen in the middle of the village square, allowing the men to view the programme on one side, with the women seated and watching on the other side. In this manner, cultural traditions were observed, but women were given access to the training programmes.

Video, too, is being extensively and increasingly used to improve rural extension and training. With FAO assistance, a video-based farmer training methodology has been developed to reproduce farmers' knowledge at the same time as integrating it with modern scientific knowledge. Although video is the primary training tool for facilitating understanding, it is backed up with simple printed guidelines for both the trainers and the farmers.

These guidelines (with several drawings and a limited amount of text) also serve as "memory" for the trainees. This audiovisual training methodology was first developed by an FAO project in Peru and has since been applied in other countries in the region, including Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Paraguay, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua and Caribbean countries. It has also been used in China, the Republic of Korea and Mali.

"What I hear I forget.
  What I see I remember.
  What I do I learn."

(A peasant proverb) 

There are many examples of audiovisual training programmes and courses that have been produced and used with women farmers. They cover topics ranging from agricultural production techniques, natural resource management, small-scale irrigation, vegetable production, livestock management, food processing and storage to arithmetic and accounting, improved nutrition, breastfeeding, reproductive health and sanitation. Care has always been taken to ensure that half of the national staff trained in the production and use of these audiovisual programmes are women.

Rapid developments in small-format video technology have meant that the means of production of video programmes can be put in the hands of the communities themselves, enabling rural women, with some basic training, to articulate their own needs and tell their own stories. Participatory video is an approach that develops participants' abilities by teaching them to use video equipment to record problems around them as well as to identify solutions. What is important is not the quality of the programme produced, but the process of communication within and between groups. The use of participatory video offers a valuable tool to those working for local empowerment and social change. Communication skills are linked to leadership skills, and experience has shown that women who acquire communication and facilitation skills through their work with participatory video become stronger leaders and organizers.

The benefits of participatory video go well beyond the actual tapes and access to the technology. When women learn to make a meaningful and compelling video programme, when they master a new tool, or when they facilitate a lively group discussion after viewing a video programme, they develop communication skills that increase their standing in the community and in their organizations.

Communication skills are linked to leadership skills, and experience has shown that women who acquire communication and facilitation skills through their work with participatory video become stronger leaders and organizers.

Video is an important tool for enlightening decision-makers on the concerns of rural women and the critical problems they face.Experience has confirmed that video boosts self-confidence and encourages self-development. Rural women are seldom asked for their opinions or knowledge on a particular subject. Yet, when they see themselves demonstrating a technique or expressing an opinion on a video monitor, and realize that influential people will see and hear what they have to say, they become more confident and assertive about sharing their views and knowledge with others.



Pakistan's National Conservation Strategy states that development should allow women to realize their full potential by providing opportunities for them to take control of their own lives as well as the surrounding natural environment. Even though the role of women in natural resource management is officially recognized, it is often neglected in daily life because of traditional gender roles. To counteract this constraint, the Interregional Project for Participatory Upland Conservation and Development (PUCD) - an FAO/Italy cooperative effort - is promoting women's participation in watershed management in Kanak Valley, Balochistan. Because of their role in managing fuelwood, rangeland and water resources, women are important for the environmental sustainability of the Kanak Valley. Under the project, they are encouraged to form and join Women's Village Associations, which provide a forum for training, regular meetings and special leadership workshops. This is important for women who have little experience in attending or leading meetings and discussing common issues.

It is difficult to address environmental issues, since women are not encouraged to express opinions about matters outside the household or to become involved in the issue of natural resource conservation. Using participatory communication approaches, however, the project is helping women gain self-reliance in making decisions and taking action. It is promoting a new social awareness about women's role in managing natural resources.

To facilitate participation and social learning, the following communication methods and tools have been used:

  • Slide language. This is a methodology whereby slides of local areas are presented to groups of women to identify solutions and negotiate common action to overcome environmental problems.
  • Photo albums and exhibitions. These materials are used as "group memory" for monitoring collaborative measures for the conservation of natural resources and to share experiences among women's associations and communities.
  • Slide competitions. Representatives of four womens' associations were trained to use cameras to take slides of natural resource use around their villages. A slide language exercise was then carried out to identify problems and suggest action to be taken. Slide competitions resulted in "story lines", with visual messages representing the ways in which different women's associations had interpreted the environment and its changing aspects.

The slide competitions set off a true awareness process among the women. They realized that they, themselves, could take steps to safeguard the environment and that this would have direct influence on the daily tasks of water and fuelwood collection. The slides and stories were produced by village women who "held" the social memory of their environment and proposed solutions in their communities to control the decline in the water level. Using flexible and appropriate communication methods, women were able to share their visions, needs and concerns. Photos and slides proved powerful tools for women to make themselves heard regarding the sustainable use of natural resources.



For generations, rural populations living in isolated villages without access to modern means of communication have relied on the spoken word and traditional forms of communication as a means of sharing knowledge and information and providing entertainment.

For illiterate rural women in particular, occasions for information exchange have consisted solely in local festivities, family gatherings, traditional and religious associations, interaction with itinerant merchants and encounters at marketplaces or water wells. However, women have made use of the oral tradition to ensure their own as well as their families' survival and, as a result, have developed a rich communication environment. They have lived creative lives, transmitting culture, knowledge, customs and history through traditional forms of communication such as poetry, proverbs, songs, stories, dances and plays. Within their communities, women are active participants in social communication networks. They use indigenous communication methods for information exchange, knowledge sharing and the dissemination of strategies for mutual assistance and survival.

Culture and history play an important role in the social development of a community. The preservation of traditional forms of communication and social change are not mutually exclusive. Traditional communication methods can be important channels for facilitating learning, behavioural change, people's participation and dialogue for development purposes. Indigenous media have been successfully adopted by change agents to promote rural development issues of relevance to women. They have been used, for instance, to influence attitudes towards family size, female genital mutilation, teenage pregnancies, unsettling lifestyles and HIV/AIDS. They have also been applied in health care, environmental protection and women's literacy programmes as well as in teaching mothers about child nutrition and in introducing new agricultural practices. Traditional forms of communication can also be integrated with other media such as radio, television, video and audiocassettes.

Communication is a product of culture, and culture determines the code, structure, meaning and context of the communication that takes place. The participation of local folk artists, storytellers and performers in the production and use of traditional media ensures respect for traditional values, symbols and realities and, at the same time, ensures that such media productions appeal to rural audiences. By tapping the community's creative pool of traditional culture, expressions and formats, women can maintain their cultural identity while gaining social self-reliance. Women's use of local media and communication channels also increases the credibility of media programmes and thus their effectiveness and impact on the knowledge, attitudes and behaviour of other women.



Population communication teams working in the Comoros, Burundi, Rwanda, Kenya, Uganda and the Philippines have tapped a variety of artistic expressions: the beat of drums, the sound of three-string guitars, the rhythm of skiffle bands, women's dance groups, village clowns, storytellers, theatre groups and puppets.

Building on those experiences, a population communication project in Malawi invited grassroots artists (including women) from the project's target audience to a communication workshop. The participants then worked together to produce a coherent multimedia package of songs and dances, stories and plays, village clowneries and drum shows addressing a variety of population issues and lifestyles. The productions were pretested and integrated into a multimedia campaign, which also used radio, visual materials, drama and print. Yet it was the talent, creativity and intuition of the artists that triggered a process of village participation in the rural areas of southern Malawi.

The emotional excitement created by the launching of village campaigns gave way to the spontaneous development of traditional songs, dances and popular plays by other village artists. The Malawi experience proves the potential that traditional forms of communication have to involve and reach women audiences.

From Communication, a key to human development
FAO, 1994



Communication programmes should make use of all media infrastructures and channels available in a country, both modern and traditional, in an orchestrated and mutually reinforcing fashion. The combination of several media approaches and tools with interpersonal channels multiplies the impact of communication campaigns, which are being used increasingly to support clearly defined development priorities. Some striking examples include a health campaign in the United Republic of Tanzania; nutrition programmes in Nicaragua, the Philippines and Tunisia; a breastfeeding campaign in Trinidad and Tobago; family planning programmes in China, Colombia, Egypt, Honduras, Pakistan and Thailand; and a campaign against female genital mutilation in Ethiopia.

Multichannel communication approaches can also help in identifying appropriate agricultural technologies for women as well as in disseminating the required knowledge and skills.

A recent evaluation of the Soul City "edutainment" programme in South Africa has demonstrated the added value and effectiveness of using a multichannel approach. This communication campaign aimed at delivering health education messages to women over a three-month period. It included a series of 13 television drama programmes, broadcast at prime time on the country's most popular television channel.

It was accompanied by a series of 15-minute radio drama programmes, called Healing Hearts, broadcast daily on the country's three largest radio stations. In addition, Soul City used newspapers to provide more detailed information and to supplement the health messages conveyed by electronic media. A booklet, illustrated with characters from the television series, was serialized in the major newspapers and distributed through clinics and health service organizations.

Finally, educational packages combining audio and videotape together with written materials were produced to facilitate learning processes in both formal and informal settings. A public relations campaign strengthened the messages further by placing the issues on the public agenda by using editorial space, competitions and a range of actuality programmes in the various media. The entire campaign was preceded by formative research to identify appropriate channels and messages. Messages were designed in consultation with the target audience and experts in the field, and materials and programmes were pretested with groups of women and men.

An evaluation analysed gender-disaggregated data to assess the impact of the various channels and materials on knowledge, attitudes and behaviour. The results showed that the multimedia approach in this case was effective in reaching female audiences.

Audiovisual materials such as slides and video can assist extension workers. Women trainees, even if they are illiterate, can see and discuss innovations before putting them into practice.


Investing in the sharing of knowledge and learning for rural women through extension and training can be an effective means of reducing poverty and promoting food security and sustainable development. However, studies on agricultural extension have highlighted a number of weaknesses in current efforts to reach rural women. There are very few women extensionists; moreover, the attitudes and behaviour of male extension personnel can be a major barrier between extension services and women.

Extension services have often ignored the specific information needs of women as well as the fact that they may require different agricultural technologies from those suited to men. They have underestimated women's indigenous knowledge and experience and have not taken the time to listen to and learn from women themselves.

A combination of traditional and modern communication methods can help extension workers to improve the quality and outreach of their programmes with women. Fieldworkers need to abandon top-down approaches in favour of participatory communication skills and methods and establish a climate of confidence and trust. They need to learn how to promote dialogue among women farmers, help them identify their needs and strengthen their self-confidence. Participatory communication methods can improve the linkages among women farmers, extensionists, researchers, policy-makers and planners, thereby fostering the exchange of information and knowledge and ensuring that development activities correspond to the real needs of rural communities.

Audiovisual materials such as slides and video can assist extension workers with their training activities. Women trainees, even if they are illiterate, can see and discuss innovations before putting them into practice.

Audiovisuals can compress time and space. For example, in a single session, a training group can explore an entire agricultural cycle, from sowing to harvest. Through visual materials, women can travel to places that are too distant to visit. The extensionists themselves also benefit from using communication materials. The technical information presented can be standardized and of high quality and the presentations made attractive and interesting. Audiovisual materials spark dialogue and debate and, overall, they allow trainers to be more confident and professional.

The use of mass media, such as rural radio, can reinforce and multiply the impact of extension messages and allow extensionists to reach rural people in isolated areas. Radio and television can be used to conduct distance education programmes for rural women who are unable to attend formal education and training programmes.



Rural women play an important role in Jamaican agriculture: as farmers in their own right, in partnership with men on household farms and as the main cultivators of kitchen gardens. A challenge to extension in Jamaica has been finding creative and cost-effective ways to communicate with rural women. A pilot project, supported by the Governments of Jamaica and Canada, used various participatory communication approaches to deliver appropriately designed soil nutrient technologies to rural women.

In order to develop appropriate agricultural and soil fertility technologies for rural women, a participatory communication methodology was used that incorporated both indigenous and scientific knowledge. The project demonstrated that women have specific information needs, and a set of participatory techniques for a gender approach to agricultural activities was developed. It also demonstrated how extension workers could select from a variety of traditional and modern communication methods according to the needs of rural women. The approaches and media applied, and the products generated, by the project included:

  • a series of community video screenings, followed by discussion, showing agricultural practices in Jamaica;
  • video tapes of community demonstration plots, comparing the effects of various soil nutrient applications;
  • a visual baseline survey, with respondents interviewed either on video or on audiotape;
  • a drama performance - for which rural women were hired as actors - to improve understanding of how gender relationships affect agricultural decision-making (the peformance was used to verify the baseline survey findings);
  • oral history testimonies about each community, (these emerged from interviews and were published in local newsletters);
  • a quarterly newsletter, produced to inform project participants and other audiences about soil fertility and other agricultural issues;
  • participatory video training carried out in each of the communities, resulting in a series of short, humorous programmes related to agriculture and soil fertility.

Based on findings from nine months of field testing as well as on the results of the video baseline survey and a mid-term evaluation, the technology package was redesigned and a final video was produced to present soil nutrient and soil conservation recommendations.

Maria Protz
from Training for Agricultural and Rural Development
FAO, 1997-98



With the advent of the global information society, new communication technologies are increasingly being adopted as effective tools for reaching rural audiences. Yet the benefits of the information revolution are still much debated, particularly in the case of the developing countries. There is serious concern that the gap between the information "haves and have-nots" will continue to grow.

The bulk of information resources and technologies are in developed countries, which also control the content that they transmit. Unless developing countries acquire the infrastructure and resources to access these new technologies and generate their own content, they are likely to become more marginalized and isolated - economically, socially and politically.

The situation is even more serious for remote rural communities where basic communications infrastructure, such as newspapers, television, radio and telephones, is lacking. If the benefits of new technologies are to reach rural areas in developing countries, it is essential not only to increase rural populations' access to these technologies, but also to disseminate information in local languages and ensure that it is relevant to local development needs. Included in this challenge is the task of making the new communication technologies available to rural women and providing the skills and tools necessary for them to express their opinions and produce their own information.

Given the fast pace of the information revolution, it is not unrealistic to conceive of telecommunication infrastructures and information technologies becoming practical tools for the promotion of development in rural areas. We are not yet at the stage where all remote rural areas are connected to the outside world.

However, through the Internet and electronic mail, it is possible to connect with local intermediary organizations, such as extension services, health centres, training institutions, local NGOs, farmers' associations and women's organizations which, in turn, can share information with rural people through traditional communication channels. International development agencies and national development partners are already experimenting with new information technologies and electronic communication networks for rural development, concentrating on how to make them more accessible to rural populations and thus bridging the "last mile of connectivity".

Experience gained so far confirms that new information technologies can be successfully applied in rural areas of developing countries provided that:



Exclusivity in access to the Internet has led many to brand it as yet another technology that is available only to the wealthy and powerful élite in developing countries. The true picture is more complex, however, and despite its limited access, the Internet is making an impact.

One consistent criticism centres on men's predominant use of the Internet. Access to information means access to power, and most societies continue to exclude women from both. Estimates suggest that the global Internet gender ratio has remained static for a number of years, with about 63 percent of users being men and 37 percent women. Less optimistic is the claim, made by the Association for Progressive Communications, that "male domination of computer networks" is as high as 95 percent.

For many activists, the concept of "cyberspace" is critical to understanding the importance of the new technology for women. "The issue of space has always been central for women and is highly sensitive, particularly in Africa," argues Marie-Hélène Mottin-Sylla of the Synergy, Gender and Development Programme run by ENDA-Tiers Monde in Senegal. "The freedom to have access to spaces other than the bedroom and the kitchen, and to be able to act fully and safely in other public spaces is key to women's full participation in the world's future. Unless African women can participate fully in cyberspace, they will face a new form of exclusion from society."

From The Internet and poverty: real help or real hype?

Panos Media Briefing, No. 28, April 1998



In Bangladesh, the Grameen Bank has set a new trend in communications. The bank, which provides collateral-free micro loans to help the poor start up small businesses, has established a people-oriented, wireless communication system with the objective of promoting income-generating activities for the rural poor. The communication system is based on the Grameen phone, a wireless, cellular phone that poor rural people may purchase through a lease scheme. The leasers then charge other villagers a small fee for use of the phone, which thus takes on the function of a portable rural telephone booth.

Hundreds of rural women are taking advantage of this development to create pay telephone services in communities that were previously without a telephone connection. As a result, the Grameen Bank is helping rural women to run their businesses since, through the use of the phones, they gain quick, cheap and easy access to suppliers, customers and market information.

The bank believes the Village Pay Phone Project is the largest of its type in the world. It has already changed the lives of many rural women in Bangladesh, and the aim of the bank is to put at least one cellular phone in each of Bangladesh's 68000 villages within the next six years.



Laili Begun, from Uttarkhan village about 16 miles outside Dhaka, is a member of the Patia Grameen Bank group. In the past, she had received small loans from the Bank, with which she bought a cow and some chickens. She was doing well, selling milk and eggs to boost her income as well as improve her diet, and she had set up a tea shop for her husband to run. When Mohammed Yunus toured the area to tell people about his cellular pay phone idea, Laili gave it serious consideration. Eventually, impressed by Laili's record of business success, the local Grameen manager asked her if she would be interested in leasing one of the phones.

Laili had never imagined communicating with Dhaka or overseas just by voice, and without even leaving her village. Although there is only a road in the dry season (it is under water during the monsoon) she was used to walking for miles to reach a doctor or meet relatives. So she did some research and concluded that there would be a market for such a pay phone in her village. Weighing up the advantages and disadvantages, Laili decided to take the risk and lease a phone from the Bank, thus becoming the first village phone operator. The loan was much larger than those she had previously received, but she was confident that the income would easily cover the payments and leave her with a profit.

The Grameen lease scheme is in fact more like a hire-purchase agreement. Laili borrowed 18 000 taka (Tk) - about US$450 - which she was to pay back to the Bank over a period of two years at a weekly rate of Tk 150, in addition to charges for telephone calls made. When the loan is paid off, Laili will actually own the phone.

Laili charges Tk 4.60 per minute for calls, on which she makes a profit of Tk 2 per minute. She is now making Tk 100 per day from both incoming and outgoing calls, which is a great boost to her family income. Her customers form a long queue at the tea shop to telephone relatives at home and abroad. The Village Pay Phone has given Laili a touch of glamour - as well as a good income.

Adapted from Alamgeer Haque,
The Village Pay Phone: an explosion in Bangladesh,
In Appropriate Technology, March 1998



Today, the Internet's World Wide Web and electronic mail systems comprise a global "people's network" for communicating and sharing information. Women's groups and associations in developing countries are exploring the challenges and possibilities unfolded by Internet applications and are beginning to invest in the use of these tools for promoting their interests. For example, in societies that have a long tradition of women traders, new information technology offers women improved scope for business ventures as well as the opportunity to collect and disseminate information within and beyond their national boundaries. In Ghana, communication centres with fax, telephone, copy machine and computer services have been operating since 1992. These centres are owned almost exclusively by women and serve many women clients.

Communication through e-mail networks helps reduce the isolation of women and offers opportunities to overcome many of the constraints that limit their capacity to address national and local development issues. Communicating with the international community as well as with each other, rural women's groups can gain access to information about best practices, appropriate technologies, ideas and problems of other groups with similar interests. Despite the greater access that women's groups and associations now have to new information technologies, they are still underrepresented on most networks. Entering the new electronic frontier of cyberspace remains a challenge to most women of the world, not to mention rural women.

The problems faced by women users include:



The Association for Progressive Communications promotes a women's networking programme to empower women through the use of information technology. The programme works with women intermediaries who interact with rural communities. Its objectives are to:

  • ensure women's groups in Africa, Asia and Latin America the necessary access to training, technology and information so as to facilitate local, regional and international communication and information exchange;
  • empower women - through information tools - to increase their visibility and highlight their achievements as primary agents of development;
  • respond to women's training needs and support the involvement of a core group of women technicians and information management specialists.

The programme has highlighted the generation of local content, the development of appropriate multimedia information systems, and the efficient and targeted delivery of information in local languages as priorities for those working with rural women for sustainable development.

From APC Women's Networking Support Programme, 1999
( apcwomen)



Rural community telecentres are part of another approach being used by development agencies and their partners to extend access to the Internet, bringing it closer to rural communities and the intermediary organizations that provide services to these communities. Telecentres are shared information and communication facilities that provide communities with telephone, fax and Internet services as well as access to equipment such as cassette and video players, photocopiers and computers.

Telecentres can provide communities with knowledge and information from outside sources, which can then be integrated with local knowledge. For example, a telecentre can be used by a local health organization to collect information and develop material for public awareness programmes on issues such as reproductive health, HIV/AIDS or female genital mutilation.

Telecentres can be used by training institutes to obtain distance learning materials for supplementing courses offered locally for girls. They can also be used by communities to share information with other communities. For example, locally developed solutions for agricultural problems can be announced and shared with other communities with similar problems and agro-ecological conditions. Furthermore, linking telecentre facilities with other media can increase the local impact of such centres, exchanging information with rural people who cannot access their services. If local radio stations broadcast information collected on the Internet, for instance, rural women who are unable to use the services of a telecentre may still benefit from the information made available through this electronic channel.

Communication through e-mail networks helps reduce the isolation of women and offers opportunities to overcome many of the constraints that limit women's capacity to address national and local development issues.

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