April 2007

Voices from the margins

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The use and control over ICTs  is instrumental in solidifying the power configurations of male dominance and could lead to abuse of power.  It is therefore indispensable for women to inscribe an equal representation in communication spaces and networks, given the new information world order. 

Women in the developing world have a gamut of issues to deal with -social and political inequity, neo-conservatism, orthodoxies, livelihood, education, and health. Regardless of the concerted efforts and work on gender and information and communication technology (ICT) issues there is still a lot of inequity as far as a fair participation of women and men in the development, use and control of ICT, is considered. Many a woman still view ICTs as a male bastion.

So what can women do with Community Radio (CR)? It is expected that CR will enable women to create alternative media spaces and solidarity networks to contest the ideologies of a male dominated media discourse. It will help them to highlight regional specificities, influence community decision making and policy formulation,  advocate womens education and health, and highlight issues relating to child welfare, domestic violence, and human rights. Several Governments around the world are addressing the policy issues surrounding the operations of Community Radio. Already Community Broadcasting is Australia's largest independent media sector with 460 independent community owned and operated broadcasting services including radio and television stations and remote Indigenous services. Latin America is also witnessing a rise in the number of CR stations and other forms of Alternative media. The Indian Government too has decided to free the airways and implement a supportive policy. It augers well for the womens movement to take stock of this opportunity and mark a strong presence as a grassroots and issue driven media.

The Canadian Farm Radio collective, is an example of CRs networking with each other  for content sharing and operational support purposes. Ensuring sustainability too is a pivotal task of the CR movement, and this model could be replicated at other locations and will prove to be pivotal in helping community owned stations to self-sustain. The rapidly proliferating telecentres could also be harnessed to enter into alliances with local CRs. CRs run by women can profit by such collaborations which will help them to spread their word to an even larger audience base. It behoves the state facilitators to provide the necessary impetus to this promising and democratic phenomenon by creating support mechanisms and training avenues. We at i4d will be following the developments with a keen eye, hoping for an enabling environment, for relaying the voices from the margin.


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