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Media and the empowerment of communities for social change
Chido E.F. Matewa -
February 27, 2003

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The broad research question for this study was to investigate how communication media empowers rural communities for social change. To achieve the goals of the study, both qualitative and quantitative approaches were used to investigate how participatory video and radio were being used to contribute to the advancement and empowerment of rural women, who lack or have limited access to both print and electronic media.

In the literature review, the trend in development communication since the 1960's is discussed. It was evident from literature that there has been a gradual shift from the one-way view of communication to a deeper understanding of communication as a two-way process that is interactive and participatory.

It emerged in this study that video is a reflexive medium, which enables actors in a participatory project to be both the subject and the object of reflection. Participants realised that they could do things, and say what they thought knowing that it would be heard beyond their local boundaries, and so video helped to build their confidence. When a video produced using the participatory approach was shown to other communities, it enabled members of these communities to see themselves through the lives and experiences of others and reflect. The conclusion of this study is that video and radio, when used in a participatory way, are extremely powerful in giving recognition to marginalised individuals and communities, which then generates the sense of empowerment that enables them to take action for social change.

The qualitative interviews with media practitioners from various government and developmental organisations revealed that access to information among rural communities was limited. They also acknowledged that using the participatory approach, simpler solutions to development problems could be found.

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