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Get With The Program: Radio and Women’s Empowerment in Kenya

The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ASPA as an organization.

By Maggie Callahan
February 5, 2020

http://www.osdma.org

Genital mutilation and concubine kidnappings are only two of the many issues facing women in Northern Kenya, an area typified by conflict and warfare. Cultural taboos and a lack of access make these issues difficult to discuss and nearly impossible to address. Women are now finding their voice by listening to others’ through a women’s radio group listening initiative spearheaded by civil society organizations in the region.

The Ford Foundation, UWEZO Fund and AMWIK have joined forces to enhance ICT usage and radio programming in Malindi. Through radio programming women have learned how to access funds to enhance their children’s education and literacy. These radio programs also include information on how to access and pressure governments to provide the services women are guaranteed as Kenyan citizens. Through ICTs and radio programming, women are also learning how to market their handcrafted products online through social media and personal websites. These programs have empowered local women economically and politically, giving them access to needed but often guarded information.

In addition to radio programming in Malindi, the Kenya Pastoralist Journalist Network, TRJC and AWC are also imparting information and knowledge to rural women across Northern Kenya. These programs address historical issues that women in the region face, gender-based violence, HIV and economic empowerment. Not only do the programs discuss these issues, they also discuss the avenues available to women to help correct or overcome these issues.

These radio programs are not only effective at imparting knowledge, but also allow for discussion and participation through Advancement through Interactive Radio (AIR) technologies. Through hand-held radio transmission devices, women can communicate directly with the radio programming described above and can also start their own community station. The organizations listed above have distributed and trained local women on using these technologies to further the empowerment and ownership of these radio stations.

The radio programming is particularly effective in Kenya because it overcomes many of the issues that have traditionally kept women marginalized. The radio stations created a platform that women have access to and give women the ability to discuss issues that are not allowed on other public platforms. Furthermore, these technologies have solar charging capabilities and do not require cellular service or literacy to work or be understood, which makes them incredibly accessible.

These radio stations, despite all their progress, are only the starting point for empowering women in Kenya. Women have access to information and space for dialogue through these radio stations and programming, but the stations do not necessarily encourage or allow for collective action on the issues facing women. These radio stations challenge norms that have marginalized women, but there is still much work to be done to ensure that Kenyan women achieve full political and economic equality. Ultimately, these radio stations allow women to get with the program on issues facing their community but have yet to create a program for action.

To learn more about this case visit https://participedia.net/case/4949. To read about other innovative applications of public participation, visit www.participedia.net


Author: Maggie Callahan is a master’s student of public diplomacy at Syracuse University and a graduate assistant for the Participedia Project at the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs. She holds a bachelor’s in political science and economics from Mercer University and has worked in Georgian, Moroccan and Nepalese nongovernmental organizations and the American government. Follow her on Twitter: @laissezmaggie

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