Improving access to information, giving a voice to rural women and men, communication, increasing women’s leadership, enhancing rural communities’ participation in their own development and promoting peoples’ empowerment: these are the main objectives of the FAO Dimitra community listeners’ clubs (CLCs). This participatory communication approach has been recognised by FAO and other development partners (Governments, Belgian Cooperation, UN agencies, etc) as a good practice that contributes to gender equality, food security and rural poverty reduction. CLCs have been established in six different countries in sub-Saharan Africa with about 25 000 members and more than 175 000 indirect beneficiaries. CLCs are groups of women and men who organize themselves to meet regularly and discuss their concerns and needs, collaborate with community radio stations and engage in collective action to solve their problems. This brings about sustainable changes in people’s life and in their communities
Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (Dimitra-Project) - ItalyLead applicant
Achieving food security for all is at the heart of FAO's efforts – to make sure people have regular access to enough high-quality food to lead active, healthy lives. Our three main goals are: the eradication of hunger, food insecurity and malnutrition; the elimination of poverty and the driving forward of economic and social progress for all; and, the sustainable management and utilization of natural resources, including land, water, air, climate and genetic resources for the benefit of present and future generations. The Dimitra project has been a project of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) since 1998 and receives financial support from the Belgian Development Cooperation. Dimitra also benefits from the support of other bi- or multilateral funding agencies in the framework of its field activities.
Radio Bubusa - Democratic Republic of CongoInitiative partner
Radio Bubusa is the first Radio Community Radio Station to be founded by a group of women in South Kivu (DR CONGO). This Community Radio is a main partner of FAO-Dimitra.
AEDL Action Educative pour le développement local - NigerInitiative partner
Association pour la promotion et l’éducation de base Rabi Niandou Initiative partner
REFED-CONAFED Katanga - Democratic Republic of CongoInitiative partner
Le Comité National Femme et Développement (CONAFED) est un réseau d’associations de femmes en République Démocratique du Congo. La mission du CONAFED consiste à promouvoir, par l’approche genre, une société où les hommes et les femmes entretiennent des rapports où s’équilibrent leurs droits et leurs devoirs dans un esprit d’équité et de représentativité. Le Conafed est représenté dans toutes les provinces de la République Démocratique du Congo par les Réseaux Provinciaux Femmes et Développement (REFED).
NGO Samwaki - Democratic Republic of CongoInitiative partner
Samwaki (the voice of rural women) is an NGO working to improve the livelihoods of rural populations in South Kivu through access to information and communication. The province of South Kivu in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) has been ravaged by war. And whereas Samwaki is thriving today, as evidenced by its secondplace ranking in the AfriComNet 2010 Awards for its communication campaign on HIV and AIDS that success is largely due to the determination and leadership of its coordinator.
Haut Commissariat Initiative 3 N (Niger) - NigerInitiative partner
Ministry of Agriculture (DR Congo) - Democratic Republic of CongoInitiative partner
The United Nations Population Fund (Niger) - NigerInitiative partner
UNFPA, the United Nations Population Fund, is the lead UN agency for delivering a world where every pregnancy is wanted, every birth is safe, and every young person's potential is fulfilled.
The United Nations Children's Fund (Niger) - United StatesInitiative partner
UNICEF is a United Nations Program headquartered in New York City that provides long-term humanitarian and developmental assistance to children and mothers in developing countries. It is one of the members of the United Nations Development Group and its Executive Committee
The Belgian Development Cooperation - BelgiumInitiative partner
The Belgian Development Cooperation is Dimitra's main donor
International Fund for Agricultural Development IFAD_ - ItalyInitiative partner
We meet, we decide, we act
The Dimitra community listeners’ clubs approach is the main innovation developed by the FAO Dimitra project. This gender-sensitive participatory communication approach is very simple: CLCs are groups of women, men, girls and boys - mixed or not- who voluntarily decide to get organised and mobilised to discuss their own development priorities, make informed choices to address their problems, network and take collective action to bring about changes in their communities. Community radio stations collaborate with the clubs by sharing information requested by the clubs’ members and by broadcasting the debates on air. This mechanism provides rural communities with an opportunity to break the barriers of rural isolation, exchange experiences, having their voices heard, gain self-confidence, actively participate in decision-making and look for ways to act together and solve common problems. People are socially and economically empowered thanks to this approach
The Dimitra Clubs are present in various countries of Sub-Saharan Africa (Niger, DRC, Senegal, Mauritania, Burundi and Ghana). Being marginalized and geographically dispersed, rural women and men can hardly seize socio-economic opportunities or influence policies that could affect them. Rural women face additional challenges, such as unequal access to resources, information, services, education and technology as well as to decision-making processes. Such inequalities are frequently rooted in gender-specific constraints that significantly hinder development goals in rural areas. Through better access to information and participatory communication, the most disadvantaged groups, particularly women and indigenous people, can voice their needs and concerns, actively participate in decision-making, improve their livelihoods and take ownership of their own development.
The results recorded so far reflect changes in the perceptions, behaviours and actions of rural communities. Behavioural and social changes have been observed not only in agricultural matters but also in gender relations, health, nutrition and sanitation practices. The participation of rural women and men in the economic, political and social life of their community has greatly improved. Women are able to speak in public with self-confidence and take on leadership roles. Club members are able to improve their knowledge on issues that are of interest for them through improved access to information, discussions and networking. The clubs have strengthened the organizational capacities of their members. A woman from a Dimitra Club in Gasseda (Niger) says that “thanks to the listeners’ clubs we were able to organize ourselves. We succeeded in obtaining a multifunctional platform. Now we can have our cereals grinded. This greatly alleviates our workload and we have more time for ourselves.”
The FAO Dimitra approach is mainly directed towards rural women and men, girls and boys in remote rural communities of Sub-Saharan Africa. Other beneficiaries are formal and informal groups at community level, as well as community facilitators, rural community radios, extension officers, local authorities, NGOs, etc. Dimitra contributes to people’s empowerment by responding to the following needs: access to information, active participation, inclusion, networking, dialogue, organizational capacities, women’s leadership and community governance. “Participatory communication has shown us how to share information with others and, above all, how to spread our knowledge and experiences so as to achieve a better control of our environment” Thérèse Ramazani, facilitator of the Etumba na nzala listeners’ club (DRC).
The Dimitra initiative is facilitated at field level in different ways according to the context and requests from the clubs. Close support is provided by a local partner organization (NGO, literacy network, training centres, etc.) through community facilitators who are prepared to play that role. They know the context very well, speak local languages and trained in rural social mobilization, participatory communication and gender. In addition, other experts participate in the radio programmes (nutritionists, gender specialists, experts in agriculture and pest management, etc.). Follow-up of the community facilitators and Dimitra clubs is usually provided by the initiative at national level. Finally, backstopping is ensured at the international level by the FAO Dimitra team that collects data, experiences, lessons learnt, and results, useful to improve the approach and up-scale.
The FAO Dimitra approach is based on the premise that development can be achieved only if rural actors are the main drivers of social change. Concretely, this means that it does not provide financial and material support (except for a small solar-powered radio set), but develops rural women and men’s capacities to actively participate in their own development. Communities and local stakeholders do not understand automatically this new approach. Therefore, awareness-raising sessions on the approach and its advantages need to be organized from the inception phase to obtain people’s interest and involvement. Another obstacle is the fact that community radio stations face lots of difficulties (lack of technical and human resources), which makes it difficult for them to engage in the approach. That is why the initiative provides them with technical training (journalism, gender and communication, etc.) as well as small equipment to record and broadcast the clubs’ debates.
Through the Dimitra Clubs, rural women and men have better access to information and gain a better understanding on issues such as sanitation, impact of pesticides, environmentally-sustainable agricultural practices, etc. However, it is the whole dynamics of the Dimitra clubs that improves people’s resilience and capacity to better deal with issues related to their own environment and climate change. Discussions on such topics regularly take place and since the clubs are action-oriented, concrete measures are taken by the communities to reduce environmental impact. For example, in partnership with other FAO projects, the Dimitra approach is used in Niger to strengthen populations’ capacity to manage disaster risks and climate change consequences. In most communities, cleaning days for the villages and improved sanitation measures are organised by the communities themselves.
This initiative has yielded remarkable results that are lasting even after FAO’s support has stopped: the Dimitra Clubs keep meeting, discussing and acting and have made the approach theirs (ownership) because the clubs facilitate a real community dynamics that mobilizes energies within the clubs and in the communities. Everywhere, the process has resulted in behavior changes, collective action, social cohesion, women’s leadership, better food security, networking and more generally better livelihoods. The activities are based on multi-level partnerships, synergies with other participatory approaches, initiatives, knowledge forums, exchange visits as well as large dissemination of publications and bi-annual newsletters. As a result, people feel less isolated and can make choices and improve their livelihoods. This greatly promotes sustainability. An external Gender Evaluation recognized the approach as a good practice for “moving beyond women’s economic empowerment”
Disseminating information and sharing knowledge on the results are an integral part of the FAO Dimitra approach. This is achieved through a website and a bi-annual Dimitra newsletter which always includes articles on the clubs in the different countries. The newsletter is distributed electronically to some 10 000 email addresses (NGOs, public institutions, international organisations and individuals) throughout the world. But more importantly, hard copies get to the Dimitra clubs in the remote villages so that people can read about themselves and similar experiences. The results and effects are also disseminated through videos (see You tube FAO/Dimitra) and events (conferences, share fairs, etc.) and special forums for the listeners’ clubs organised by Dimitra. These forums achieve great results since they provide a unique opportunity for the clubs’ members to meet other clubs, discuss, exchange and network, something that they have never been able to do before the clubs.