Radio can be used for reaching marginalised and isolated communities in many regions in the Global South. It is important to see whether information broadcasted is accurate, independent and aligned with listeners’ needs or wishes, Emma Heywood of the University of Sheffield, the author of a new study, writes.
In Niger, gender inequality is widespread and evident in many forms. Child marriage is common for girls, literacy rates are low, and women face gender-based violence. Radio is the most important source of information for many women in Niger, therefore offering a valuable channel for empowerment. Programmes can contribute to shaping women’s beliefs, practices and values. At the same time, radio can more generally affect society’s beliefs towards women.
The researcher did fieldwork in Niger during 2018-2019, conducting workshops, interviews and focus groups. In addition, Heywood did analysed women-related radio broadcasts of Studio Kalangou: a radio studio set up in 2016 by Fondation Hirondelle, a Swiss-based media development agency. Focus group interviews were repeated after participants had listened to the studio’s broadcasts.
Radio as a knowledge resource
The results show that radio can work as a ‘knowledge resource’ and help empower women politically, economically and within society. The article offers several suggestions on how to improve broadcasts aimed at empowering women.
By focusing on everyday life, broadcasts respond to daily realities of women, but also risk reinforcing old stereotypes. If they aim to influence more strategic needs, such as the transformation of gender roles, the “radio must broadcast a correct balance”, responding to different concerns and groups of women, the author notes.
It is beneficial to have a clear definition of what empowerment means both for the broadcasters and for their listeners, Heywood finds. Gaps in these definitions should be recognised and addressed. Broadcasters should note how much airtime is afforded to male and female guests, and how follow-up questions in debates are formulated. Geographical variety and inclusivity should be acknowledged.
The article “Radio Journalism and Women’s Empowerment in Niger” was published in Journalism Studies and is available on the publisher’s website (free abstract, full article behind paywall).
Picture: untitled by Austin Neill, license Unsplash