There are many issues and problems facing women globally today. Violence is one of them. The world is still reeling from the brutal rape and beating of a young female medical student in India a few months ago. Or Malala Yousufzai teenage girl in Pakistan, shot in the head by the Taliban for championing female education in October last year.
I remember sitting in church and being somewhat horrified as the pastor in her New Years service called on husbands not to beat their wives ‘too much’. Sadly, she knew exactly what she was talking about. Domestic violence is sadly all to common.
Less brutal but no less damaging is inequality. It can lead from everything from a woman not being considered for a job because she might one day want to start a family, to actual gendercide, where thousands of baby girls are aborted or abandoned to die in places like Northern India or China. Government policies like China’s one-child policy; or socioeconomic reasons like needing physically stronger males for farm-work or not being afford a dowry have made having girl children an unattractive prospect for parents.
Inequality limits the opportunities that women have. If a woman is seen as inferior to a man, why spend any money training her, or helping her to better herself. If all she is seen as is someone to maintain the home and bear children, why does she need to go to school? It’s a cycle- many women are denied the opportunity and information needed to better themselves, often times information that would allow them to at the very least fend for themselves. These women then help perpetuate this cycle with their own daughters. It’s not their fault, they just don’t know or feel that there is any other way.
At ARDA, our radio programmes, no matter how diverse their topic, have always sought to inform women. Radio is an excellent medium for this. It is accessible, and unlike television doesn’t require the women to sit down passively to get the message. The women are able to carry out their duties and still receive vital information.
Our partnership with GenARDIS illustrates this best. GenARDIS (Gender, Agriculture and Rural Development in the Information Society) is a small grants fund that supports work on gender-related issues in information and communication technologies (ICTs) for Africa, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) agricultural and rural development
Our project saw us help the women form a cooperative to share ideas and information about farming techniques. We realised that while the men usually got together after a day on the farm to discuss sharing I formation about farming, and other social and economic issues. Meanwhile women didn’t have that opportunity. They would be busy with chores, getting firewood for dinner and the like when they could be having a meeting of the minds. We came up with a radio programme that allowed women to have that feeling of connectedness and community. The women of the community (Gwagwada) were also given a mobile phone with which they were able to call in to the show and speak to farm extension workers.
It was really gratifying to see the change we made in these women’s lives. The community had a low level of mobile phone usage due to poor signal coverage. In fact we had to provide a booster antenna for the phone we gave the women. The women used the phone to generate a small stream of income by letting people make and receive phone calls on it.
They had more confidence in themselves; we helped establish listener’s clubs where they finally had a chance to speak up and exchange ideas freely. They were empowered. By the end of the project, the women had been started paying a local pastor to provide Adult Education to them.
They had broken the cycle.
There is no certainty that empowering women will protect them from violence. What radio can do instead is attempt to change the harmful ideas and attitudes that allow violence against women to be condoned.
Have a Happy Women’s Day.