New UNESCO exhibit celebrates rural women on air

02 March 2018

Local radio stations supported by UNESCO are challenging gender norms in Africa and inspiring rural women to participate in public debate and promote their own autonomy. An upcoming UNESCO exhibit entitled “On Air with Rural Women” is shining a light on the inspiring stories of rural women’s representation in the media, a group too often overlooked.

On Air with Rural Women” will be inaugurated in Salle Miro on 8 March, 2018, to coincide with International Women’s Day. The exhibition built around real-life radio broadcasts gathered from local stations in 10 countries of Sub-Saharan Africa. Through audio, video and creative installations, the exhibition will present powerful stories of rural women benefiting from UNESCO’s “Empowering Local Radio with ICTs” project.

Women are twice as likely as men to be illiterate, and rural women are especially at risk. Globally, only 39% of rural girls attend secondary school, and they often suffer from lower levels of civic integration and access to information, as well as exclusion from decision-making circles.

Radio often represents one of the only ways that these isolated communities can access information and engage in public debate and discussion. The inclusion of women's voices and gender-related issues on the air has the power to promote women’s empowerment by breaking the circle of inequality and dependence.

Following the training activities offered by UNESCO through the project, radio staff are better able to cover and confront gender issues through their programming, and the representation of women on-air is improved.

“After attending UNESCO trainings, I always mind the language I use while on air. It should not be demeaning to women or men,” said Prossy Nantume, a reporter from Mama FM in Uganda. “I ensure that both men and women benefit from the program by including the voices of both.”

Listener groups targeting rural women are one of the ways that supported local radio stations are increasing media and information literacy amongst women.

In Rwanda, Radio Isangano has helped create listener groups comprised of women farmers to better include women’s voices in public debate and promote healthy gender portrayals on air.

The “On Air with Rural Women” exhibition will be displayed in Salle Miró at UNESCO Headquarters in Paris until the 16th of March.

All materials featured in the exhibition were collected through UNESCO’s "Empowering Local Radio with ICTs" project, supported by Sweden, which aims to build the capacity of local radio to provide marginalized populations, particularly in remote and poor areas, with reliable and quality access to information on topics that affect their lives. By addressing gender equality, UNESCO is helping to empower women and forward gender equality in order to promote the autonomy of women, as in line with SDG 5.

For more information on how UNESCO is celebrating International Women's Day, click here.