Script 95.8

Notes to broadcasters

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This info doc introduces radio broadcasters to the topic of gender and gender equality. It will provide you with some useful definitions, and some facts and statistics about inequalities between men and women. It offers guidelines on how to reach both women and men farmers, involve them in your program, and provide them with the information they need. It also provides a checklist to ensure that your program is respectful of both male and female listeners. Finally, this info doc encourages you to reflect on gender equality at your station.


Introduction: Women are responsible for half of the agricultural labour in sub-Saharan Africa. So women will likely form an important part of your audience.

There is a good chance that some of the persistent and deep-rooted issues that affect women farmers are related to inequalities between men and women. For example, women may not have the right to own land, or their husbands may control how farm income is spent, even though the women do much of the farm labour. To best serve your listeners, you will need to address the most important issues that women farmers face, as well as those faced by male farmers.

Let’s begin with some definitions.

Key definitions: A broadcaster often has to translate and adapt words and phrases into the local language. To do this well, it’s important to understand these terms before you use them on-air. There are a few words and phrases that appear repeatedly when talking about gender. We provide definitions for some of them here.

Sex: Universal and biological differences between men and women. Sex is something you are born with.

Gender: Socially constructed roles and responsibilities of men and women, their expected behaviours and attitudes. For example, in most of the world, women do more housework than men. Unlike sex, this is something that changes over time and between cultures.

Division of labour: This refers to the way work is divided between men and women in a specific culture or society, and how men and women’s work is valued. Generally, men’s work is better paid, considered more important, is more likely to be regular, and is counted in national statistics. In contrast, women’s work tends to be poorly paid or unpaid, considered less important, is seasonal, part-time, and “invisible.”

Access and control: These two concepts are very different. For example, a farmer might have access to land, (that is, she is able to farm on land that belongs to someone else), but not have control of land (that is, she does not own the land and is not able to decide how that land is used). Thus, women may have access to key resources, but without control of those resources, they have little say in decisions about them.

Gender equality: With gender equality, women and men have equal rights, and their desires and needs are considered equally. Encouraging gender equality includes:

  • promoting the equal participation of women and men in decision-making;
  • supporting women and girls to fully make use of their rights; and
  • reducing the gap between women’s and men’s access to, control of, and benefits from resources.

Now it’s time for some facts about gender inequalities.

Some facts: The facts and statistics below paint a clear picture of the inequalities between women and men related to agriculture and media in Africa and around the world. They demonstrate the strong need for farmer radio programs that promote gender equality.

Gender and agriculture: Women in agriculture and women in rural areas have less access and control than men over the resources needed to produce crops and livestock, and less access to opportunities to improve their livelihoods. This gender gap is found in many areas: land, livestock, labour, education, extension and financial services, and technology. This gap hurts not only the women themselves, but also the agricultural sector, the broader economy, and society in general. Closing the gender gap in agriculture would greatly benefit the agricultural sector and society. For example, if women had the same access to resources as men, they could increase yields on their farms by 20–30%.

Media and women: A recent research project found the following gender differences in news stories:

  • Only 24% of subjects in print, radio and television news stories were women; 76% were men.
  • Only one in five experts interviewed by the media was a woman.
  • Just 37% of stories reported on television, radio and newspaper were covered by female reporters.
  • Almost half (46%) of stories reinforced gender stereotypes, while only 6% challenged such stereotypes.
  • Women were four times more likely than men to be referred to in terms of personal relationships, e.g., as a wife, mother, etc.

Women and Information and Communications Technologies (ICTs): New ICTs such as the internet can provide opportunities for women, but women in developing nations have extremely limited access to all forms of technology. Some women are skilled at using ICTs, but most are not. There is a significant “digital divide” between men and women. As a result, the online environment has been largely designed by and for men. This has increased both the digital divide and negative stereotyping of women. It is important to acknowledge and overcome this digital divide by making sure that women receive technical training, and train other women in technical skills.

Now it’s time to start thinking about gender and your farmer program.

Gender and your farmer program: The sections below are designed to help you plan and produce a program that addresses gender and serves women farmers as well as it serves men farmers.

Different needs: Women and men farmers often have different information and communication needs. They are available to listen to the radio at different times of the day, and they may have different preferences in terms of format and content.

When you visit listening communities to conduct audience research, make sure you speak to both male and female listeners and note any differences in their preferences. Here are some steps you can take to make sure your farmer program meets the needs of both men and women:

  • Try to alternate your stories. For example, sometimes you can focus on issues of importance to women farmers, and at other times you can focus on issues of importance to men farmers. Of course, some issues are of concern to both women and men farmers.
  • Farmer programs should be repeated at least once a week. Make sure that one or more of the repeats is broadcast at a time when it is convenient for women to listen.
  • Think about your whole audience when you are broadcasting. For example, even if an element of your program is of greater interest to men, make sure that the content is respectful to women. And vice versa.
  • When your program focuses on an issue that is of importance to both women and men, take time to learn the different ways that women and men are affected by the issue, and how they are able to respond to it. For example, if the issue is declining soil fertility, men and women may have different needs and different solutions: male farmers might be able to purchase commercial fertilizers while women might choose intercropping.

A study of women and community radio in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea found too few women working in radio. On some stations, even the women’s program was presented by a man. Women who were interviewed for the study stated that even the best-trained men could not “transmit in a way that women were able to receive well.” The study found that women have a strong interest in economics and politics, but that they often don’t listen or participate in radio programs on these issues because the programs are dominated by male experts and male opinions.

The study found that women want to participate in community radio but that stations do not effectively engage women during programs, and that there is a lack of female voices on-air. Too often, even when a station carries a women’s program, it adopts a narrow interpretation of women’s issues, focusing only on marriage, child care or domestic responsibilities.

Partnering with local organizations that focus on gender: There may be an NGO or community-based organization in your area that is working with local communities to improve the lives of rural women. If so, it might be useful to work with them. The NGO could explain its work and help you to understand about gender and agriculture issues in the community, and give you ideas on how to develop gender-sensitive items for your program.

These organizations might know of a rural community which has successfully addressed gender equality issues and improved the lives of women and men farmers. Examples like this can make great radio items. Listeners from other communities may be encouraged to copy or adapt their approach.

Arranging a meeting with women: Women are very busy. It helps to know where women farmers gather and when they are free to talk. You may not be able to meet with them for a long time, and might have to schedule a follow-up meeting if you don’t have time to ask all your questions. Women should be encouraged to bring their children with them to the meeting. This will allow more young women to attend.

Interviewing women: It is highly recommended that you hold an all-women meeting. Husbands will probably not want to attend such a meeting, and women will be encouraged to speak out by hearing other women do so. This can result in a more extensive and deeper discussion.

Depending on cultural and religious practices, interviewing individual women farmers may be different than interviewing men farmers.

Key things to consider if you are a man interviewing a woman:

  • Must the husband be present for the interview?
  • Do you need a chaperone while conducting the interview?
  • Will the husband allow his wife to answer questions rather than answering on her behalf?

Key things to consider if you are a woman interviewing another woman:

  • Does the husband need to be present for the interview?
  • Can the woman answer questions without consulting her husband for his point of view?

Program production: Farm Radio International has developed the following gender checklist to help ensure your program is gender-sensitive.

Gender checklist for your program: Consider the points below when producing your program. While you won’t satisfy all of these points every time, by addressing them when you can, you will help ensure that women’s and men’s voices and points of view are appropriately presented.

  • Are women and men represented?
  • Are the key production and on-air roles open to women as well as men?
  • If the program producer is a man, are there women associated with the production who can bring their voices to production issues? (And vice versa)
  • If the program host is a man, are other important on-air roles held by women? (And vice versa)
  • Does your program give fair and equal time to women’s and men’s issues and voices?
  • Do the women you interview represent the full range of cultures and classes? For example, if you interview a woman from one ethnic group in your area, consider highlighting the perspectives of women from other ethnic groups.
  • Some women (and men) are difficult to reach because they live in remote areas. Have you made arrangements to access these people so their stories can be told?

Portrayal of women and men

  • Does your program reflect a well-rounded and realistic view of women and men, and do women and men appear in a full range of activities (for example, not just in domestic roles if they are women)?
  • Are all people treated with dignity in the items you produce?
  • Do your items and your overall program challenge gender stereotypes? For example, do you represent women as having multiple roles in society, rather than primarily as mothers, wives or daughters?
  • Are the experiences and concerns of women treated seriously? Are they presented as equally important to men’s experiences and concerns?


  • Do you use language that is inclusive of men and women? For example, instead of “mankind,” use “humankind.” Rather than “man-made,” use “manufactured.” Instead of “policeman,” use “police officer.” Have you found or created words in your language that are inclusive of men and women?
  • Do you avoid adjectives that are irrelevant or reinforce gender stereotypes? For example, sometimes writers or radio hosts describe a woman as “beautiful” or “attractive” when the women’s physical appearance has nothing to do with the story. Men are more typically described as “hard-working” or “successful.” Such stereotypes value men only for what they accomplish and value women only as objects of desire. Both women and men deserve better than that in your radio program!

Before we end, it’s time for you to think about gender equality at your station.

At your radio station: We’ve mainly been focusing on how your radio program can serve both women and men in a way that respects both genders and their needs. It is also important for you to think about how gender issues are addressed at your own radio station.

Some questions you might want to think about:

  • How many men and how many women work at your radio station? Why might there be more men or more women?
  • Are there certain positions that are more likely to be held by men or by women? Why? Should it stay this way?
  • Do women have an opportunity to do all of the important and interesting work at your station? If not, why not, and what steps can be taken to make your station more gender-equal?
  • Does your station have a policy statement expressing its support for gender equality, both in its work practices and in its programming? If not, why not, and what steps can be taken to improve this?
  • How can you and your colleagues make your own daily working environment a more equitable place for men and women?

Some women work in the media, but few occupy decision-making positions or positions that require technical skills. Women should also be represented on ownership and decision-making bodies such as boards or advisory committees as well, to ensure they have a meaningful voice in making station policies.

The following practices will help increase women’s participation in radio stations:

  • Introduce child-care, flexible working hours and broadcast schedules that fit with women’s other responsibilities.
  • Create a supportive environment in and around the station, including ways to protect women from sexual harassment and molestation, and zero tolerance for violations of women’s dignity.
  • Ensure adequate lighting and security at the station during meeting and broadcast times, and safe transport for women who have to travel to and from the station, particularly at night or on public holidays.

In order to encourage gender equality at the station and to ensure women’s access to the airwaves, it is important that women receive technical training and have the opportunity to produce programs.

Overall, radio has an opportunity to:

  • contribute to resolving gender inequality
  • increase women’s involvement at all levels of programming and decision-making
  • ensure that women’s voices and concerns are part of the daily news agenda
  • ensure that women are represented positively on-air as active members of society
  • support women to get the technical skills and confidence to control their own communication

You may find that by addressing gender equality in your station every day, it will become natural for you to include it comfortably, regularly and effectively in your radio programs.


Contributed by: Vijay Cuddeford, Managing editor, Farm Radio International, based on a document created by Blythe McKay, Manager, Resources for Broadcasters, Farm Radio International.

Reviewed by: Doug Ward, Chairperson, Farm Radio International; Kevin Perkins, Executive Director, Farm Radio International; Jessica Tomlin, Executive Director, Match International; Katherine Im-Jenkins, Senior Manager, Programs and Program Development, World University Services Canada.

Project undertaken with the financial support of the Government of Canada provided through the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA)

Information Sources

Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), undated. Men and women in agriculture: closing the gap.

World Association for Communication (WACC), 2010. Who makes the news?

Search for Common Ground, 2011. Community Radio, Gender and ICTs in West Africa.