Kathryn Burnham | March 24, 2019
When the broadcasters at Voice of Kigezi, in southwestern Uganda, plan their radio programming, they have a particular type of listener in mind. Station manager Andrew Agaba says they picture a young, semi-literate woman with a family to take care of. She is a farmer, growing crops to feed her family, and dreams of expanding her production or adding value to her harvest to earn more money.
He explains: “Most of the time when we are programming, especially for farmers, we target the female. And it is deliberate because in our locality, the females are the ones who go to the gardens and actually dig. They are the ones you find harvesting. They are the ones you find doing all of the chores around farming. The men only bargain.”
When you tune in to Voice of Kigezi on the airwaves in southwestern Uganda at 6 p.m. on Saturdays, you hear a program called B’Omugaiga, which means “Get rich through farming.” Mr. Agaba says they chose this name to inspire women to be interested in the program. B’Omugaiga first aired five years ago, after Voice of Kigezi partnered with Farm Radio International on a project.
With a focus on female listeners, the program discusses the challenges women face in their farming work, how men can support women in their farming tasks, and how both men and women can make farming a business. The goal is to provide a platform for small-scale farmers, “irrespective of their gender, to voice out their issues and get solutions.”
Farm Radio International chose B’Omugaiga as the inaugural winner of the Liz Hughes Award for Her Farm Radio. This new award recognizes radio programs that address gender equality and create opportunities to share the voices of rural women.
B’Omugaiga succeeds in doing this by using many different formats to incorporate women’s voices, including panel discussions, field interviews, and studio interviews.
The program is currently produced by Brenda Murangi Mugwisagye and Kevin Tuheirwe, who wear several hats while producing the weekly program, including producer, reporter, and host. They always include a woman presenter in the program to inspire women to participate and to ensure that gender issues are discussed on air.
Ms. Mugwisagye was ecstatic to learn that she had won the award. She says: “Personally, I am so elated, this being my first major award in my 16 years in broadcast media. Recognition of my skills in reporting, production, and presentation gives me confidence to carry on doing a great job serving my community and pursuing areas of gender equality and rights.”
She adds: “This award gives the team on the B’Omugaiga program a chance to shine and a huge boost in prominence to attract attention in sponsorship and funding—since being an agriculture-based program, it hardly gets the support it requires.”
Farming programs can face difficulties attracting sponsors, though they often have no difficulty attracting listeners if they tackle topics that are important to their community. On B’Omugaiga, the producers often choose topics related to current events. The program recently discussed how women were affected by the Fall armyworm pest that has effected farmers across Uganda, and throughout Africa. At other times, topics are chosen from issues suggested by listeners. The broadcasters meet with listeners on field visits and hear from listeners who call in to the program.
The broadcasters try to achieve a gender balance in their interviews with experts and farmers, and make efforts not to stereotype women or men when discussing gender equality.
They encourage listeners to participate by offering prizes to those who call, and ensure that women are amongst the winners by announcing that they will award prizes to two women and two men callers.
The broadcasters acknowledge that it’s not easy to involve women in the program. Ms. Mugwisagye says women are often shy when approached to be interviewed. But she encourages them to speak up because their words will help other women who are facing similar issues.
Ms. Mugwisagye takes pride in her work on B’Omugaiga, but acknowledges that it’s not easy to be a woman broadcaster—or in fact a woman in a Ugandan workplace. Women are often expected to cook for their families and clean up the home before going to work themselves. And they have to repeat these chores at the end of the workday. She says: “The ground isn’t level. At work, they don’t want to know you had to cook or wash up. I have to compete at the same level as [men] who don’t have this work, these responsibilities.” This imbalance in household chores and women’s burden of responsibility is something she makes sure to discuss on air, with the hope of inspiring change in her community.
This excellent program was one of 40 applications for the Liz Hughes Award for Her Farm Radio. There were many strong programs dedicated to women’s issues or that discussed women’s views as part of larger conversations. Runners-up for this year’s award include Radio Kiboga in Uganda, Radio Ouaké in Mali, Radio Arzèkè in Benin, and the Tanzania Broadcasting Corporation. Honourable mention goes to Southern Radio and Television in Ethiopia and Mama Radio in DRC.
Stay tuned. We will be sharing highlights from some of the shortlisted candidates.