Several stories about women’s participation in media production in Africa fell into my lap this week. One was a story out of Nigeria about a project conducted by the African Radio Drama Association (ARDA) involving women farmers in the rural areas of Nigeria. ARDA implemented a Theatre for Development format, in which community produced dramas are used to impart knowledge about economic, social, and political issues. While I was an undergrad, I took a class on African Drama and read a lot about ARDA.
In the article, several challenges to women’s participation in the program were listed:
- Less access to mobile phones. ARDA carried out preliminary field research and found that women had less access to mobile phones than men did. In the article, only 2 out of the 25 women had access to mobile phones. One reason for this was the fact that women were more likely to divert extra income to pay for school fees and food for the family, whereas men were more likely to spend money on cell phones and credit. Women were provided with mobile phones as a part of the grant and learned how to place calls, text and record discussions to prepare for the radio shows. In my research in Ghana, it was surprising to see the number of Ghanaians who had never heard their own voices recorded or their images taken. I fully believe that technological empowerment is a foundational key to getting women involved in media.
- Mobilizing the Women. Women in Africa tend to have more household responsibilities than men do, and at a younger age. Thus women were not able to come to meetings as regularly as desired.
- Low Literacy Rates, as well as low internet penetration in the area.
I would add some of my own observations of the challenges to women participating in media production and development:
- Politics and media are seen as the domain of men. In Ghana at least, politics often dominates media coverage and is the big driver of profit for many media outlets. Politics is seen as a “man’s game”, and women are expected to be more interested in “soft topics” which include education, social issues, health, and children’s welfare. Many newspaper and radio journalists told me that these “soft topics” just don’t sell. Ironic, since it is many of these “soft topics” that indicate the relative development of any country.