Voices 56

October 2000

Women in agriculture, women in the media

With this issue of Voices and the package of scripts, “Women are key to rural development,” we focus attention on the important contribution that women make in their communities. As development workers, we want to raise awareness of the challenges that women face every day. As a rural broadcaster or agriculture extensionist, you can help.

You may wonder why these issues are important to your work. This is why:

  • Women account for 70-80 percent of household food production in Africa; 65% in Asia; and 45% in Latin America. Yet, in many countries women cannot own land.
  • The number of female-headed rural households is increasing in sub-Saharan Africa, as men leave their families for long periods of time to seek jobs in urban areas.
  • Every day, women work tremendously long hours to provide food security for their families. Girls share this burden, because they often take over child care and other chores at home while their mothers are in the fields. Less than half of all girls in Africa enter primary school.
  • Women have very limited access to information about agriculture and technologies appropriate to rural development. Just 7 percent of Africa’s agriculture extension services are devoted to women farmers.
  • Women are most affected by deforestation, soil degradation, water pollution and loss of biodiversity, because they are in charge of gathering water and firewood, cultivating the soil and preparing food for their families.
  • Women and girls are four times as likely as men and boys to suffer from malnutrition.
  • Around the world, at least one woman in every three has been beaten, forced into sex, or otherwise abused, most often by a member of her own family.

Women’s work is poorly understood, undervalued and underestimated. Much of the work that rural women do outside the house is unpaid. In most countries, women do not own the land they work on, and do not control the profits made from the land they work. If they are widowed or divorced, women are often thrown off the land they work, and are left without means to feed themselves and their children.

Despite their impressive contribution to global agriculture, women usually receive less training and assistance than men do. Why? Many people assume that women carry out only menial tasks, such as weeding, thinning and transplanting. In Africa, just 7% of extension time and resources are devoted to female farmers, and only 7% of extension agents are female.

As a radio broadcaster or producer, you have an opportunity to change this imbalance. You can help women to access and share the agriculture information that would help improve their – and their families’ – lives. You can reach the women who are often ignored by agriculture training programs because they are seen as “helpers” rather than as “farmers.”

It is likely that at least half of your listeners are women. This is your opportunity to produce a program that is of special importance to them – and of interest to the other half of your audience. You can use the scripts in this package as a starting point. This is only a beginning. Consider producing a weekly program to cover other issues. Talk to the women in your audience and ask them what other topics would be appropriate. Invite them to speak on the radio. Take your tape recorders to the villages – and take their questions to a wider audience by giving them a voice on your program.

Global Media Monitoring Project: Women’s Participation in the News. Toronto: MediaWatch 1995.
An Unfinished Story: Gender Patterns in Media Employment by Margaret Gallagher. Paris: UNESCO Reports and Papers in Mass Communication, 1995.
Gender and the Information Revolution in Africa, edited by Eva M. Rathgeber and Edith Ofwona Adera. Ottawa: International Development Research Centre, 2000.

Women’s work

In addition to being food farmers, women are also responsible for household and domestic chores such as family nutrition, health and education. They look after children, and they fetch fuelwood and water. Labour-saving devices such as water tanks would reduce their heavy workload. If women have access to credit, they can buy small grinding mills, and reduce the time they spend processing food. Sharing family responsibilities with men can free up time for women.

But how many rural women know about time-saving technologies? Women in rural areas have very little access to information. They are mostly poor and illiterate. Inexpensive information technologies – such as radio – can play a major role in creating awareness, enhancing information exchange, and enabling women to adopt technologies and techniques with the potential to bring positive change.

Gender and the Information Revolution in Africa, edited by Eva M. Rathgeber and Edith Ofwona Adera.
Ottawa: International Development Research Centre

Prize for Women’s Creativity in Rural Life

“By honouring a woman, we honour a whole nation”

Every year, the Women’s World Summit Foundation honours 30 or more outstanding rural women and women’s groups who show exceptional creativity, courage and commitment in improving the quality of life in their communities. The Prize for women’s creativity in rural life aims to draw international attention to women’s contributions to household food security and sustainable development. Each winner receives a cash prize of $500.

For more information about the Prize or to receive nomination guidelines, contact:

Prize Administrator – Women’s World Summit Foundation (WWSF)
PO Box 2001, 1211 Geneva 1 Switzerland
Tel: (+41 22) 738 66 19
Fax: (+41 22) 738 82 48
E-mail: wwsf@iprolink.ch
Web site: www.woman.ch

Completed nominations must be submitted to WWSF by March 31, 2001.

World Rural Women’s Day: October 15, 2000

Celebrating biodiversity

World Rural Women’s Day is held each year on October 15th to honour the 1.6 billion rural women – more than one quarter of the world’s population – for the enormous contribution they make to their communities and to the world at large.

Rural women play a major role in ensuring food security, and in the development and stability of rural areas, yet often they have little or no status, and frequently lack the power to secure land rights or to access vital services such as credit, extension, training and education.

Last year, groups, rural organizations, grassroots institutions and the media in more than 80 countries shared information, and organized events, celebrations, and activities to raise the profile of rural women and bring awareness to governments and the public of their crucial, yet mostly unrecognized, roles.

This year’s theme for World Rural Women’s Day, Celebrating biodiversity, acknowledges the role of rural women and their ancestors in preserving one of our most precious forms of wealth: traditional knowledge.

How did your community celebrate World Rural Women’s Day this year? Let us know – and we’ll share your activities with all our members.

Knowing Your Audience

Knowing Your Audience is a three-part series which began in the April 2000 issue of Voices. Parts 1 and 2 explained the difference between your current audience and your target audience, and gave examples of different ways to gather information about the people who are listening to your programs.

Here, in the final instalment, we look at how you can use the information you have gathered to make decisions about your programs.

We invite you to share methods that have worked for you as rural communicators, and that you feel will help other Network members.

Program your station for its audience
It is important to make sure that the information you send out is received by the people you want to hear it. It is equally as important that the way you send the information is easy for listeners to understand. A food show, for example, may have the best recipes to share, but it will be unsuccessful if listeners cannot remember the list of ingredients. When you know your audience, you also know how to talk to them, what to say, and when to say it.

Using the information you have gathered in your audience profile, you will need to determine two things:

  1. What types of programs should you be airing?
  2. When should you air each program? (i.e., when is the target audience most likely to listen?)

It is important that you take into account the daily routines of your audience. Plan your broadcasting schedule around these routines.

Format your show for its audience
The format of your show includes elements such as on-air personality (announcer), method of presentation, music, general content and scheduling.

  • On-Air Personality:
    This is usually the host of the show – the person who makes the most direct contact with the target audience. When choosing your host, consider their experience, language skills and personality.
  • Method of Presentation:
    This is the way you convey your information to your audience. It might remain the same from show to show (i.e., a discussion show), or it might change according to the topic of a particular episode (i.e., discussion, drama, story, straight news, lecture, etc.).
  • Music:
    Music can often help you appeal to your listeners. What do they like? What makes them feel happy? sad? inspired? Use music to set a mood and for familiarity. Often, giving a show a theme song helps listeners to remember and identify with the information.
  • General Content:
    This is just a reminder to make sure that

    1. the information you are broadcasting is aimed at a well-considered target audience, and
    2. your target audience does not differ greatly from your actual audience.
  • Scheduling:
    Your show should air at a time when your target audience is most likely to hear it.

Advertising your show
You can attract your target audience by advertising your shows during other programs that they listen to. If, for example, there is a popular dramatic show that many mothers listen to and you are producing a nutrition show for mothers, you may wish to make short advertisements that can be played during the drama.

The simplest type of advertisement is a written announcement that can be read by the host of the drama telling when the nutrition show airs and what it is about. On-air advertisements are some of the most effective means of letting listeners know what else the radio station broadcasts.


The key to a successful broadcast is knowing your audience. Remember these points:

  1. Identify your current audience
  2. Identify your target audience
  3. Create an audience profile
  4. Program your station for its audience
  5. Format your show for its audience

Contributed by: Krystyn Tully, Freelance Writer, Toronto, Canada.

Direct from India: Women are good business managers

Mr. Pran Bhatt is Country Director with Heifer Project International in India. He recently wrote to us with some observations about women’s record keeping and business management skills in different parts of India. The following is a summary of his report.

Women are competent business and farm managers.

This is not too surprising. After all, women have always been experts at time management – scheduling meals, farm tasks and school activities for their children. Many women are also excellent communicators and that has a positive impact on their business interactions.

Most of the women involved in our project keep livestock. Many of them keep detailed records of the following data: animal breeding dates, numbers of animals born and numbers weaned. They record the quantity of milk sold from cows and goats and keep track of the quantity of feed taken on credit. Sometimes they record this information with marks directly on the walls of their homes.

In the Ladakh region of Jammu and Kashmir states in the northern part of India, women are involved in a long-standing traditional system of rotational labour sharing within the villages. This arrangement is known as “Rareys or Bareys.” Under this system each household takes its turn caring for and grazing the animals of all the other households.

In this way, labour is divided among the community, allowing each family time for other non-livestock related activities. This is an effective and efficient community business management system which benefits everyone involved.

Heifer Project International (HPI) promotes small-scale livestock production and offers training in livestock management. Its Women in Livestock Development (WiLD) program supports women’s projects and encourages women and men to share in decision-making on the farm and in ownership of animals.

Heifer Project International
PO Box 8058, Little Rock, AR USA 72203
Tel: 501-907-2600 Toll-free: 1-800-422-0474
E-mail: info@heifer.org
Web site: www.heifer.org


United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM)
UNIFEM’s mission is to help improve the living standards of women in developing countries and to address their concerns. It serves as a bridge between global policy-makers and grassroots women.

Web site: www.unifem.undp.org


Regional offices:

South Asia Regional Office
223 Jor Bagh, New Delhi 110003, India
Tel/Fax: 91-11-469-8297

Southern Africa Regional Office

Takura House, 67/69 Union Avenue
Harare, Zimbabwe
Tel: 263-4-792-681/686
Fax: 263-4-704-729

Eastern Africa Regional Office
UN Gigiri Complex – Block Q
Rooms 100-109
Nairobi, Kenya
Tel: 254-2-621234
Fax: 254-2-624494

West Africa Regional Office
11 Oyinkan Abayomi Drive
Ikoyi Lagos, Nigeria
Tel: 234-1-2692006
Fax: 234-1-2690885

Program for International Training in Health (INTRAH)
The List of Free Materials in Reproductive Health includes more than 1,200 titles (many in English, French and Spanish) on reproductive health issues that are available free of charge to individuals and organizations in the south.

1700 Airport Rd, #300
Chapel Hill, NC 27514 USA
Tel: 919-966-5636
Fax: 919-966-6816
Web site: www.intrah.org

An NGO development agency that works in partnership with women’s groups in Africa, Asia, the Caribbean, and South America.

MATCH Newsletter: News about women and development, published three times a year, in French and English. Available free of charge to women’s groups in the south.

MATCH International Centre
1102-200 Elgin St, Ottawa, ON
Canada K2P 1L5
Tel: 613-238-1312
Fax: 613-238-6867
E-mail: matchint@web.ca
Web site: https://equalityfund.ca/who-we-are/

Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations’ publication, Voices for Change: Rural women and communication, gives a voice to rural women in agricultural and rural development issues by presenting gender-sensitive communication approaches that facilitate learning and social change.

FAO, Via delle Terme di Caracalla
00100 Rome, Italy
Tel: 39.06.57053445

Also see the FAO Gender and Food Security web site (in English, French and Spanish): www.fao.org/gender/gender.htm.

International Women’s Tribune Centre (IWTC)
An NGO working with women’s organizations in Africa, Asia and the Pacific, the Middle East, Latin America and the Caribbean, Eastern Europe and Central Asia. IWTC publishes The Tribune – a women and development newsletter; training manuals; information briefs; and resource kits. All materials are available free of charge to individuals and groups in the south.

777 United Nations Plaza
New York, NY 10017 USA
Tel: 212-687-8633
Fax: 212-661-2704
Web site: www.iwtc.org

Resources for Radio

Supporting radio broadcaster to improve rural life

How to involve women in your broadcast programs

Developing a show for women
You know who your target audience is – in this case, it’s the women in your area. So what will your show be about? As a broadcaster, you give a voice to the community, provide information, and facilitate communication between community members. Perhaps you already know of some important issues, topics or problems relevant to your audience: financial matters, family questions, health tips, farming techniques. (Network scripts are a helpful place to start.)

Recognise that your audience will grow over time, that interests and concerns will change. In Zimbabwe, for example, women in listening groups who once wanted information such as recipes, now want to learn about property rights, divorce, the loss of traditions, and how to manage living costs.

Building community
Your audience is already out there, your community waiting. Good broadcasters tap into existing connections for program ideas, so ask yourself – what women’s groups, formal or informal, can be found in my community?

Talk to your mother, daughters, aunts, cousins, local clubs, school groups, teachers, elders, etc. Ideas and issues they discuss can be brought into your radio show and shared with a wider audience. Often you will find women in these groups who can answer others’ questions, older women who can share with younger, and so on.

Recognise, as well, the differences between your listeners: married, single, widowed, mothers, professionals, etc. What are their stories? Do they have advice or experiences to share? Would they make an interesting interview subject or character in a drama?

By drawing your ideas and inspiration from the community itself, you can celebrate and appreciate the lives of the women in your area. Try broadcasting interviews or encouraging listeners to write in with their questions – it is a great way to problem-solve and share resources.

Expanding your community
Other role models and ideas may come from outside your local community. As a broadcaster, you have an opportunity to introduce new ideas, people and resources to your audience.

Network scripts are just one way to share stories from other regions. Ask your community organizations to help you research other stories. Perhaps there are women in other areas whose work could provide valuable information for your listeners. Similarly, there may be women in your area whose work you would like to share with other communities.

Radio shows, where possible, could be recorded and traded with other radio stations for copies of their shows. This keeps your production costs as low as possible and gets valuable information to your listeners. These shows will be especially successful if you let your audience know in advance when special guests or shows are going to appear. They may want to contact the station in advance with their questions or comments.

Guests can also appear live in front of an audience, while other audience members listen to what they are saying over the radio. If it is too difficult to bring people from other communities to your area, you can still share their stories in dramatic form using story tellers or scripts.

Getting women involved

The most successful shows for women are the ones which involve women in their production. Clearly your goal is to attract women listeners, and one of the best ways to do this is with a female host.

The host is the voice of the community, and featuring the same host every show allows listeners to become familiar with her, to identify with her. If you would prefer to use different hosts, alternating on a regular basis instead, look for a variety of perspectives, different backgrounds, abilities, and experiences. Above all, it is important that your show be consistent, and that your listeners’ concerns are being met.

What about other on-air voices? Regular “columnists,” just like you see in a newspaper, can provide shorter segments on a regular basis. For example, invite your agricultural extension department to prepare and present a short story segment each week. Try using dramatic forms (dialogue, letters, stories, etc.) with female actors, as well. You can start with Network scripts using women from your own radio station to read the parts.

If there are no women at your station, look to community leaders, teachers, friends and others. You could even mention on-air that you are looking for women to participate in shows as actors, writers, researchers, producers, and group managers.

The more actively women are involved in the development of their show, the better you will address the needs of the community.

Contributed by Krystyn Tully, Freelance Writer, Toronto, Canada

Other Resources

World Association of Community Radio Broadcasters (AMARC)

AMARC is an international NGO that supports and contributes to the development of community radio. Many publications are available in English, French and Spanish including Network, the newsletter of AMARCs International Women’s Network (IWN). IWN helps strengthen women’s ties to each other, and addresses general topics that concern women, and particularly women who work in community radio.

AMARC also publishes InteRadio, a magazine featuring news on issues of concern to those in community radio.

AMARC Head Office
3575 boul. St. Laurent, #611
Montreal, Quebec Canada H2X 2T7
Tel: 514-982-0351
Fax: 514-849-7129

AMARC Africa Regional Office
c/o Cosatu House, Private Deck X42
Braamfontein, 2017 South Africa
Tel: (27-11) 403 751
Fax: (27-11) 403 75 14
E-mail: amarc@global.co.za

Panos Radio

Panos produces Down to Earth, a radio script series on sustainable development. Distributed in tape format to radio stations in the South, for direct broadcast or incorporation into locally made programs.

The Panos Institute
9 White Lion Street
London N1 9PD, ENGLAND
Tel: 44-71-278-1111
Fax: 44-71-278-0345

United Nations Radio

Thirty-seven radio programs in 19 languages are sent to over 165 countries. All radio programs are available in cassette or tape format, accompanied by a summary/script, and are free of charge to broadcasters.

UN series on women looks at issues affecting women around the world. Distributed every two weeks.

United Nations
Audio Visual Promotion and Distribution Unit
Room S-805, United Nations
New York, NY 10017 USA
Tel: 212-963-7199
Fax: 212-963-6869

Radio Resources on the Internet

InterWorld Radio features daily text news and broadcast-quality audio programs for radio stations to download and rebroadcast. Available free of charge to radio stations around the world with an internet connection (English only).

OneWorld Radio News Service offers broadcasters and communicators an internet platform to exchange radio programs about human rights, development and the environment. Several hundred programs in various languages available free.

Permanent Waves focuses on training for women in the radio sector, with an emphasis on community radio. Available in English and Spanish.

What do you need to be a better broadcaster?

  • Training materials
    • program production
    • audience evaluation
    • station management
    • other
  • Links to other broadcasters
  • Links to other resources
  • Access to information (research programs)
  • Other

Please mail your requests to:
Farm Radio Network
#101, 416 Moore Avenue,
Toronto, Ontario Canada M4G 1C9
E-mail: info@farmradio.org