Hélène Boucher | November 24, 2019
Bukavu, the capital of South Kivu province, is more than 2,000 km from Kinshasa, the capital of DRC. Here, violence between armed groups is common and it’s difficult to enjoy basic human rights. Violence against women is common too, and women freely expressing themselves is a sensitive issue. These are two of the reasons why the community radio station Mama Radio exists.
Four women work at Mama Radio to amplify the voices of women in order to change community attitudes. Gisèle Baraka is the program officer, Rachel Furaha is a production officer, Collette Salima is the editor-in-chief, and Aline Mwamikazi is a radio presenter. They are supported by Joseph Cikuru, the technician.
For presenter Mrs. Mwamikazi and her colleagues: “It is important to honour the memory of the girls and women who the armies have transformed into battlefields and who pay the heavy price of recurring wars and persistent insecurity, and [it’s important] to change the image of women into actors for peace and development.”
Through the program Sisimuka Mulimaji (Wake up farmer), these broadcasters are trying to offer farmers a forum for self-expression, particularly women. The program was one of the 40 candidates for Farm Radio International’s inaugural Liz Hughes Award for Her Farm Radio, and one of the last year’s runners-up.
Talking about farming on the airwaves is a real passion for the women. Every Thursday evening for 15 minutes, the agricultural community can turn to the airwaves to talk about the highs and lows of their fieldwork. They can also find many resources on the most effective agricultural practices. The team insists on producing content that respects gender, with equal participation from men and women in each program.
Sisimuka Mulimaji gives the microphone to the women and girls who make up the farming workforce. Furthermore, it informs communities about the roles of women in their households and communities, and encourages women to take leadership roles.
Many women are members of listening groups who tune in to the program and discuss it afterwards. During these discussions, they can give feedback and share their impressions on the topic, as well as on new knowledge gained or information they still need to learn.
Listening groups have proven to be a great connection to farmers in areas that the broadcasters cannot visit due to insecurity or poor roads. Mrs. Furaha explains: “The members of the listening groups keep us updated on the situation in isolated places. This facilitates contact with experts who serve us as local sources. We talk by telephone or we visit them for a pre-recorded interview.”
The program Sisimuka Mulimaji has generated many concrete changes in the community of Bukavu. The women broadcasters remark on the community’s increased interest in agriculture and the adoption of better farming techniques. As for the impact on women, they have become more and more likely to participate in harvesting, a task that was previously left to men.
Mama Radio was one of the finalists for the inaugural Liz Hughes Award for Her Farm Radio, presented by Farm Radio International to recognize the work of radio broadcasters to serve women, advance gender equality, and raise the voices of women. This award was presented on International Women’s Day in March 2019. Stay tuned for the call for applications for the next Liz Hughes Award, which will be circulated in December.