Fifty-year-old Ruth Kasimba lives in Butimba village in Kikuube district, a few kilometres from where Uganda’s proposed oil refinery will be constructed in oil-rich Hoima district in western Uganda
Like any other rural woman, Ms. Kasimba collects firewood for cooking. It is exercise she describes as physically exhausting but also mentally draining.
As a peasant farmer who grows different types of crops for food and sale, Ms. Kasimba could not believe that the daily garbage, like banana and cassava peelings, could save women from the long distance walks to collect firewood.
In one of the Nyinabwenge radio talk shows at Community Green Radio, Ms.Kasimba learned about how to convert peelings into charcoal briquettes.
“I learnt on the radio that after collecting the peelings, they are spread under the sun for some hours until they get dry. The dried peelings are then burnt slowly until they become ash,” she said. “The ash is then mixed with soil and cassava porridge and then poured into a charcoal presser machine to come up with briquettes or one can use hands to make the briquette size of their choice.”
Ms. Kasimba is a member of Butimba listeners’ club. She convinced 15 other group members to join her in making briquettes for home use and they are trying to expand the business.
Ms. Kasimba is one of many listeners who are trying to put into action what they listen on radio.
In addition to making charcoal briquettes, Butimba listeners’ club members are making indigenous tree nursery beds to conserve the environment.
Butimba listeners club is one of the pioneer clubs of Community Green Radio, which first went on air in 2014. The radio station started with 11 listeners’ clubs from Hoima, Kikube, and Buliisa, all oil-rich districts. Since then, more listeners clubs have been created in districts of Kyankwanzi and Kiboga.
Penina Ruhindi is a member of Kigaaga listeners’ club in Kabaale village in Hoima district. She says they are putting into action the lessons from the radio to ensure sustainable agriculture by planting indigenous trees and defend their rights as women.
“When we listen, we reflect on our community and identify the challenges talked about. We then try to find solutions. Like now we are taking it upon ourselves as listeners’ club members to encourage women to gain confidence and speak up on issues affecting them and defend their rights. We encourage women to go on radio. As women we have started practicing boundary tree planting to defend our land from grabbers,” she said.
Norah Bahongye, a member of Kigaaga listeners’ club, says she is happy to listen to her favorite women’s program, Nyinabwenge, Saturday evenings, when she has retired from her day’s duties.
“This radio has changed the lives of many women. I did not know that me as bahongye, a rural peasant farmer, can be on the radio. I thank the radio management for aiming at amplifying [the voices of] women. I have indigenous knowledge on farming like best seed selection and pest control which I have shared on radio, and even people come looking for me to learn. I also know that as a woman I have a right to protect my crops from being sold by my husband from the garden. This has been common by the way because men knew we can’t defend ourselves. But listening to my voice on radio itself makes him think am empowered and I can do anything to protect myself,” she said.
Since the discovery of commercially-viable oil deposits in Albertine Graben in Uganda in 2006, the high demand for land to pave way for oil exploitation as well as speculative investment has heavily impacted communities in the region. The communities are faced with evictions and displacements to pave way for oil developments. For vulnerable groups, such as women and children who largely depend on land for livelihood, the situation is worse. (Read this article on this link explains how women are impacted: http://www.nape.or.ug/10-blog/132-there-is-nothing-good-out-of-the-mines)
Despite the challenges faced by women, their voices remained mute with untold suffering, their stories untold and underreported.
This is why National Association of Professional Environmentalists (NAPE), a local non-governmental organisation, started Uganda Community Green Radio in 2014 in Bunyoro region.
The Nyinabwenge women’s program was created to specifically amplify the voices of rural women so that they can be heard, to engage them in policy-making and protection of property rights, improve food security, and address gender gaps in the environmental arena.
The program runs every Saturday evening for two hours, with Precious Naturinda as the main host and field reporter, Sara Kyeyune as a co-host, Julius Kyamanywa as the program director, and Allan Kalangi as the overall radio manager.
The radio program has helped women gain confidence by recording them and inviting them onto their radio show where they feel it’s a safe space for them to talk about issues affecting them, without fear, and they can hold their leaders accountable.
According to Allan Kalangi, the officer in charge of the Radio at NAPE, many women contribute significantly towards development, but their contributions and success are underreported. The radio program has become a platform for them to sensitize others and thus they feel they are recognized in society.
“Women’s rights have for long been violated and voices silenced. It was desire to see women speak out loudly and we are happy now that this has partly achieved. There is still a long way to go but the steps being taken are in the right direction,” says Mr. Kalangi.
This story was contributed by Precious Naturinda. The Nyinabwenge program of Uganda Community Green Radio was awarded the 2020 Liz Hughes Award for Her Farm Radio. This prize from Farm Radio International recognizes radio programs and production teams who address gender equality and amplify the voices of women. To learn more about the winners and runners up of this award, read the Spotlight section of Barza Wire.
Photo: Ruth Kasimba (right) and other members of the Butimba listeners club.