It’s a hot Saturday afternoon and Betty Bagadira has just retired from her daily duties. She had been drying her silver fish (commonly known as mukene), but the scorching sun forced her to seek shelter under a neem tree near her house.
Ms. Bagadira lives in Kaiso-Tonya landing site in the Buseruka sub-county of Hoima district, 200 kilometres northwest of Kampala, the capital of Uganda.
This is her time to listen to the radio. She sends for a radio set and a bench from her house and calls her fellow women to join her in the shade. When the women assemble, she tunes to their favourite radio program, Nyinabwenge, which means “Women’s program.” The weekly show features discussions and advice from a community perspective and is broadcast on Community Green Radio, the district’s first community radio station. For many women in Hoima, the station is the only way to get information from outside the village.
Ms. Bagadira says, “The radio is very important to us. It talks about our problems and solutions and [it’s] in our native language.”
Women in Kaiso-Tonya depend mainly on fish for their livelihoods. But the increasing population and poor fishing methods have drastically reduced the fish stock. Listening to the Nyinabwenge show has helped Ms. Bagadira identify other ways of earning a living. It has also helped local women add value to their businesses and boost income. And it has helped them conserve the environment, for example, by planting trees to reduce runoff, cover bare soil, and reduce heat and wind stress.
She says: “The radio has helped me to think beyond [my] fish business. I have started packing mukene to add value. I have also started doing alternative income-generating activities like weaving to get income. We also have a problem of wind and lack of sheds at the landing site. I have started giving out tree seedlings from my neem tree to my fellow women so that they can also plant in their compounds.”
For two and a half hours, four days a week, the radio promotes women’s empowerment at the grassroots level in the remote villages of Hoima and Buliisa districts.
These districts lie in a region where oil development is displacing many people from their land. The radio station has helped sensitize women on their land rights in a patriarchal society where it is against social norms in many communities for women to have access to and own land.
Doreen Kusemerwa also lives in Kaiso-Tonya and listens to the radio station. She says, “We have been sensitized that as women we also have a right to timely, adequate, and fair compensation once land it taken by government.”
To reach people in villages, Community Green Radio worked with communities to create listeners’ clubs. Ten women-dominated listeners’ clubs have been formed so far.
Seated in groups, the listeners’ club members discuss day-to-day issues like the environment, health, education, and economic empowerment with the radio journalists who record their voices and play them on air.
Fred Kabagambe is the chairperson of the Kaiso-Tonya listeners’ club. He says the initiative has built women’s confidence in expressing their concerns.
He explains: “The village women were reluctant to express their opinions after lifetimes of being told by men that they had nothing to say. Community radio has made them aware of their rights so that they can speak up. They now have a platform where they can put forward their grievances and in turn be educated on important issues.”
The radio also acts as a medium between locals and government officials, helping to raise awareness of issues related to education, health, justice, and the environment.
Mr. Kabagambe adds, “It has helped them get actively involved and ask questions. This engagement is empowering them to fight for their rights, raise their voices, and educate themselves.”
Community Green Radio is owned by local communities and managed by the National Association of Professional Environmentalists. The station started broadcasting in 2014 with the main aim of amplifying the voice of marginalized communities.
This story was adapted from an article titled, “Community Green Radio inspiring women to develop themselves in Uganda’s oil region,” written by Precious Naturinda for Community Green Radio. To read the original article, go to http://www.greenradio.ug/index.php/cgr-news/102-community-green-radio-inspiring-women-to-develop-themselves-in-uganda-s-oil-region