Dramatic dialogue, music, and poetry are not the usual ways that the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) raises awareness of and sensitizes rural communities on women’s land rights, but an innovative project in Uganda is doing just that through so-called Talking Books. #WhisperEyeNews
Talking books are audio devices that allow people with low or no literacy to receive training in a dynamic way.
In partnership with Amplio, a US based nonprofit social enterprise, the pilot project has adopted these easy-to-use gadgets to engage around 8,000 people, sharing stories and ideas on women’s land rights and their benefits for households and communities.
The Talking Books were developed by Amplio to reach remote, under-served rural populations that are often bypassed by conventional development initiatives. Designed for people with limited access to the internet or electricity, the Talking Books can play several hours of carefully tailored audio content, work offline, and function with either rechargeable or conventional batteries.
Digital solutions for learning and engagement
“This initiative will shed light on how inclusive digital solutions can be powerful tools to promote social inclusion and empowerment in rural contexts, as well as innovative vehicles to drive social change and foster gender equality,” highlighted Martha Osorio, FAO Gender and Rural Development Officer, who leads the initiative. “The Talking Books will motivate people to reflect on the gender dimension of land issues and discuss them, inducing through debates within households and whole communities.”
The audio messages challenge discriminatory social norms and encourage new ways of thinking. For instance, one dialogue highlights the benefits that registering the land in the name of both the wife and the husband can bring to the family’s well-being, because after joint registration both will be more inclined to invest in their land. Likewise, a testimony of a widow described how the community elders help her to mediate with her deceased husband’s brothers to convince them that she had the right to continue to live on, use and control the land on which she and her family have depended over the last ten years.
The Talking Books content also covers other issues pertinent to agricultural contexts, such as climate change and how to mitigate its impacts on food production and farmers’ livelihoods.
Thanks to the support from FAO’s Flexible Voluntary Contribution (FVC), the project runs under the sub-programme “Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment in Agriculture, Food Security and Nutrition” and is now working to distribute 400 Talking Books through the Farmer Field School (FFS) networks and the Watershed Management (WM) groups in two districts in Uganda’s West Nile region, Adjumani and Moyo.
The members of these groups who receive the Talking Books will have the opportunity to listen to the educational audio content at their own convenience, either on their own or together with neighbours, friends, or family members. As the devices allow users to record their questions and feedback about the project and the messages they listen to, FAO and Amplio will be able to analyze and use these data to tailor the messages for the subsequent rounds of deployment according to the users’ interests, needs, and priorities.
The field implementation was launched in Adjumani on 8 August 2022. The inauguration event was an opportunity to convene local government representatives and paramount chiefs, who expressed interest in and support to such a “very good”, “unique” and “innovative communication approach,” as different participants described the Talking Books.
The project team conducted a baseline survey to gain a better understanding of gender dynamics and social norms within the targeted communities, as well as their knowledge and awareness of land rights and related national laws. The baseline serves to inform the programme and content design, as well as to assess changes in knowledge and attitudes among communities receiving the Talking Books by the end of the programme.