To what extent do community media empower women? This study finds that community media initiatives perceive women as producers and contributors of media content and not just as consumers. Community media encourage greater involvement of women in technical, decision-making, and agenda-setting activities and have the potential to promote a balanced and non-stereotyped portrayal of women in the media.
Participatory communication for development envisages democratised and decentralised media systems as key agents of empowerment for those who have been socially, culturally, economically and politically marginalised. Gender is a significant dimension in community radio as well as in participatory video initiatives launched by community-based organisations. These forms of media seek to use communication technologies for social change and for the empowerment of women.
Community media initiatives often carry out their developmental activities through women-only self-help groups. Women in these organisations use community media to talk about their issues and concerns and to advance their developmental activities.
Community media help build women’s capacities for discursive interaction and also their media competencies. Women’s media production competencies help them to develop their skills as socio-political actors and to spearhead popular movements:
- Equipped with the confidence that their voices and lived experiences will not be disregarded, more and more women are participating in producing programmes.
- Women’s participation in such programmes enhances their capacity to be locally relevant and gender sensitive.
- The programmes of community radio and participatory video production have enabled women to radically change accepted media languages.
- The programmes have provided them with a space and a process for expressing ideas and issues linked to their unique experiences.
Community radio can be seen as providing an arena outside the state apparatus that women can use for democratic discussion and negotiation:
- For women media producers, the first task is to address the concerns of their own village or community.
- They also have to create an identity that imparts faith in other women, highlights the potential of the medium to bring about improvement and prompts them to participate in media activities.
- For women who have traditionally been unacknowledged and silenced (both socially and culturally), the opportunity to have their voice heard can boost their self-worth.