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Burkina Faso: Radio becomes eye opener for villagers on gender

Still image Pag la Yiri video

Still image Pag la Yiri video

Women in the village of Gomboussougou, some 160 km south east of Burkina Faso capital Ouagadougou, have decided to attend municipal meetings when they wish, a situation that was until recently unthinkable even among councillors themselves.

Villagers' eyes were opened after a 25-minute played on 13 April on civic participation during a Listeners' club session in the village. The programme had previously been aired by community radio Pag La Yiri, the first the area, and will be replayed in eleven other villages.

"Before, when we wanted to attend important meetings, our husbands would think that we want to engage in politics", said Mrs Dabre Habiba, a Gomboussougou resident. For her, things are now clear that she can attend whenever the meetings' agenda are interesting to her.

"Having had no training, we, too, had no information about that", Mrs Dabre Assitou, one of Gomboussougou municipal councillors, said.

The debates and exchanges that follow are facilitated by citizen journalists who received training in facilitating and reporting skills. They record all the exchenges so that they can be broadcast on Radio Pag la Yiri. The radio broadcasts in five local languages and French and has five journalists, four of whom are citizen journalists. The radio also has freelance contributors, mainly local primary and secondary school teachers.

"we realized that men have long managed public affairs the way they pleased and in a dictatorial fashion, so to speak, whereas society comprises both women and men. That's why we chose that topic in an attempt to bring about some balance", said Jean-Pierre Boussim, the radio's director

With the support of the Hague-based International Institute for Communication and Development (IICD), women's association Pag La Yiri started this community radio project in 2009 combining both the radio and new media technologies. In 2011, PSO, a Dutch charity focusing on capacity-building in developing countries, provided support to the radio for programmes promoting gender equality.

This experience leads to one interesting conclusion: the fact that villagers are following radio programmes in their languages for the first time, combined with the opportunity they're given to have their views broadcast, is likely to bring substantial transformations within society. One such transformation is making deeply rooted beliefs and taboos, such as women's participation in public affairs debatable. This approach seems more efficient than the often-used top-down, expert-to-non-expert model.
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