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close this bookThe Courier N 185 - March - April 2001 - Dossier: Cinema - Country Reports: Angola (EC Courier, 2001, 76 p.)
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The future of Mozambique will be shaped by its women

by Benjamin Dard

Hello to all our listeners, and now on with the rest of today’s programme on violence within marriage, says Enia, radiant behind the microphone at Radio Mozambique, where for a year now she has been presenting a programme on women. Established in 1933, Radio Mozambique, the national radio station since the 1975 revolution, broadcasts right across the country. Programmes from local stations spread over nine of the ten provinces making up the country can be received far beyond the edges of the towns. Radio Mozambique can pride itself on being the only medium to reach the whole population, 80% of which lives in rural areas.

Conscious of the vital role it could play, Radio Mozambique introduced, in 1997, with the help of the Austrian government and the Institute for North-South Cooperation, the ‘Women and Development’ programme. In this country, a hotchpotch of 53 different dialects, where women struggle to make their voice heard and where access to information is still very limited, this initiative is extremely ambitious, attempting to train bilingual female journalists to speak to women about women.

Like thirty other young women, Enia was recruited because, as well as Portuguese, the official language of Mozambique, she also speaks another Bantu language. When she is at the microphone or interviewing she speaks in Ronga, her maternal dialect, which is spoken in the province of Maputo. Dialects were in fact one of the selection criteria for these young women straight out of secondary school. Between the thirty of them, they speak 17 dialects, thereby covering nearly all the languages commonly spoken in Mozambique.

Spread across the nine local stations, all the young women present, in their own language, a programme devoted to the role of women in the local economy. This programme seeks to provide information on the issues that really affect their daily lives and deals with their specific problems. The cause of women is no longer merely a subject reserved for a few groups in Maputo; via the airwaves, it has now reached every household.

The programmes do not just provide information, they try to be militant. They provoke discussion and, led by women for women, show the way. As Fernanda Fernandes, director of the project, explains: “We are trying to involve women more in the various political, economic and social decision-making processes. To do this, they have to become more involved in public debates, express themselves and be able to do so in their own language. In addition, the particular vulnerability of women and the greatest social and economic difficulties they face have to be explained.” As, in Mozambique, it is the women who suffer most from unemployment, they are the ones with the highest level of illiteracy: only one woman in three goes to primary school. One need look no further than the difficulties the programme managers had in recruiting women who had completed their secondary education. And finally, it is women who are the principal victims of the inadequacy of health service structures: for every 100 children born, one woman dies in labour. This is why, says Enia, “Most of the women we want to help, and at whom our programmes are mainly directed, have very difficult lives. But these are often the women who do not speak Portuguese.”

However, speaking about AIDS in Ronga or about contraception in Ximakhonde, the dialect spoken in the province of Cabo Delgado in the north of the country, has not been without some surprising problems of vocabulary. The programme managers noticed that vocabulary associated with problems of gender or subjects relating to development was relatively limited in local dialects. This is why, alongside the ‘Women and Development’ programme, an initiative, which was unexpected to say the least, has been set up to bring lexicologists together to translate or enrich local dialects.

To enable them to speak more effectively about women’s issues, the young journalists - they are aged between 18 and 25 - have undertaken a training course which fully integrates gender problems. A number of seminars have been organised which deal with socio-economic questions relating to women (local development, commerce) and with health (contraception, AIDS). In the programmes they present today, their main aim is to make women aware of their rights.

In preparing her report on violence within marriage, Enia went to the district of Namaacha in the province of Maputo to meet Dona Rablina Buque, local manager of the Mozambique Association for the Development of the Family (AMDFA). This activist uses the programme to explain the problem: “I think it is important to work with women to educate them about the violence they are suffering, because once they are aware of it they can be directed towards bodies which can help solve these problems.” And she adds, as if to indicate the size of the task: “The important thing is to educate them, as there are still too many women who think the violence they are suffering is normal.”

One of the other benefits of the programme for Radio Mozambique is that it has completely changed professional practices at the station and increased the numbers of women on its staff. At Radio Mozambique, women are no longer confined to the advertisements, but are trained journalists and managers of their own programmes. These new voices are obviously one of the station’s strengths. “There are women’s issues which a male journalist finds difficult to tackle; I think women understand women’s problems better than men,” emphasises Enia.

In fact, these female journalists have ultimately become veritable agents of change, broadcasting information which above all else is supposed to be “practical”, as if the underlying aim was primarily to turn a medium to the benefit of both the women and the men of this country. And in Mozambique, where 15% of the population is allegedly infected with the AIDS virus, explaining the existence of condoms constitutes information in itself. This is another reason why Enia looks at her job as making up a whole. “It involves both informing and helping; for example, when I go out into the field, we give out lots of information. We then receive letters and reactions which we answer, giving suggestions.”

Providing information, helping and getting involved are the watchwords of this innovative programme. “Radio Mozambique,” concludes Joao de Sousa, programme director, “thus gives the general public the chance to hear about their own problems on the radio because, as far as we are concerned, the most important thing is for the people of Mozambique to find, on the radio, the very problems they are experiencing, and for them to write letters and pick up the telephone. Journalists then go out to report on these issues and we thereby create an exchange, receive feedback.”

Women, journalists, polyglots: Enia and her thirty other colleagues are now set to play a vital role in the future of Mozambique, the development of the country.

You can find more on this subject along with pictures, by contacting the Demain! network on (+33) 1.44.25.79.88 or by looking at the collection of images on our Internet website www.demain.fr