Since oil deposits were found in Western Uganda in 2006, interest in oil exploitation has heavily impacted communities in the region. Many communities risk being displaced, which particularly affects vulnerable groups like women and children—and everyone who relies on the land for their livelihood.
This is why a local NGO called the National Association of Professional Environmentalists (NAPE) started Uganda Community Green Radio in 2014.
Many radio stations in Bunyoro sub-region are commercial stations that focus on attracting big audiences and maximizing profits. The staff at NAPE were acutely aware that, despite the challenges faced by women, their voices remained mute, their stories untold and underreported. So they created the Nyinabwenge women’s program to amplify the voices of rural women so that women are heard, to engage women in policy-making and protection of property rights, to improve food security, and to address gender gaps.
This program has been awarded the 2020 Liz Hughes Award for Her Farm Radio in recognition of its effort to amplify the voices of women and address local gender equality issues.
Runners-up for this year’s award include: RTB Gaoua (Burkina Faso), Radio Munyu (Burkina Faso), Radio Kwizera (Tanzania), Kitulo FM (Tanzania), and Fana Broadcasting Corporation (Ethiopia).
The Nyinabwenge program runs every Saturday evening for two hours, a time that is convenient for rural women, who are often busy during the day. The program is aired in local languages, with Precious Naturinda as the main host and field reporter, Sara Kyeyune as a co-host, Julius Kyamanywa as the program director, and Allan Kalangi as the overall radio manager. The broadcasters address issues that are important to rural women in their area, including farming, environmental conservation, food security, domestic violence, health, and social issues.
The radio program has helped women gain confidence by recording their voices and inviting them onto the show. The women see the program as a safe space to talk about issues without fear, and as a place where they can hold their leaders accountable.
The program attempts to change the narrative around gender roles. The broadcasters invite gender experts, women leaders, and other inspirational people to talk about how women and men can engage in various activities irrespective of gender.
In this region, women are seen as “belonging to the kitchen, while men are at the high table.” Some women fear attending community meetings. If they attend, they often lack the confidence to speak. Men are seen as decision-makers and landowners, while women simply use the land. Women’s work is underappreciated and women often do not share in the profits of what they grow.
But the broadcasters at Uganda Community Green Radio believe that they can make a difference by recording women’s voices telling their own stories and by hosting empowered women discussing how they change the status quo.
Women’s listener clubs have encouraged women to talk about the station’s radio programs as a group, and even given women the confidence to contribute to the programs.
Norah Bahongye is a member of Kigaaga listener club in Kabaale village, Hoima district. She says she is happy to listen to her favorite women’s program, Nyinabwenge, on Saturday evenings, when she has retired from the day’s duties.
She adds: “This radio has changed the lives of many women. I did not know that me as bahongye, a rural peasant farmer, can be on the radio. I thank the radio management for aiming at amplifying [the voices of] women. I have indigenous knowledge on farming, like best seed selection and pest control, which I have shared on radio, and people even come looking for me to learn.”
While the Nyinabwenge program amplifies the voices of women, men are also featured on the program. The men talk about gender equality and encourage their fellow men to take a different view of women and their contributions to farming, family, and community. The program has hosted men who share their condemnation of men who deny women ownership. It has also hosted parents who have bequeathed property to their daughters, and men who condemn other men who sell their wives’ harvests. The program has also talked with men about how they can share women’s unpaid work, including cooking, cleaning, and collecting water or firewood.
Penina Ruhindi is another member of the Kigaaga listener club. She says the members of the club are putting the lessons from the radio into action: “When we listen, we reflect on our community and identify the challenges talked about. We then try to find solutions. Like now we are taking it upon ourselves as listener club members to encourage women to gain confidence and speak up on issues affecting them and defend their rights. We encourage women to go on radio. As women, we have started practicing boundary tree planting to defend our land from grabbers.”
Stay tuned to Barza Wire for profiles of all the runners-up and more information on how you can address gender equality in your radio program.
The Liz Hughes Award for Her Farm Radio is an award given by Farm Radio International to recognize radio programs that address gender equality and create opportunities to share the voices of rural women. This year’s judging panel included: Nora Young, Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) broadcaster and FRI board member; Rita Houkayem, gender specialist with Global Affairs Canada; Doug Rushton, former CBC broadcaster; and Andrea Bambara, FRI Country Representative for Burkina Faso.