woman selling vegetables on a stall

How Gender-Responsive Media Can Help Women’s Economic Empowerment–and Business

By Sarah Bove, WIN Program Director, TechnoServe

Entrepreneurs face a number of challenges to starting and running profitable businesses, and societal attitudes often present an additional obstacle for women. What role can media play in changing these attitudes, and how can we make such programming financially sustainable?

The existence of a gender income gap in Sub-Saharan Africa is perhaps not a surprise, given the existence of similar gaps around the world, but its magnitude is still startling: according to the World Bank, the median monthly income of men is more than twice that of women.

What is driving this? Women are both more likely to work in low-income sectors and to earn less than men within the same sector. Take Mozambique, for example: 79% of Mozambican women primarily work in the informal sector, especially in agriculture, where earnings are typically low. Almost half (49.5%) of informal businesses are majority-owned by women; by contrast, less than a quarter (24.2%) of formal enterprises are. But even among larger, formal SMEs, the gender gap in monthly profits in Mozambique is around 16%.

Women farmers and entrepreneurs face a number of obstacles to entering profitable sectors and increasing their earnings within the sectors in which they do work, including time constraints due to family responsibilities, limited access to financial services, and a lack of autonomy and control over their income and assets. Societal gender norms and beliefs often negatively influence attitudes toward women’s entrepreneurship and financial independence, making it more challenging to address these obstacles.

According to the results of the survey conducted by the Women In Business (WIN) program in November 2021, 45% of male and 29% of female respondents agreed with the view that women are not capable of running businesses while also managing the household and children. In addition, 28% of respondents—men and women—believe that women should be at home and not run businesses, and 54% believe that there are certain businesses or activities that women cannot do.

So, what can be done to change those attitudes? Developing and distributing media products with inclusive messaging can be an essential part of the solution.

In a new case study, the Women In Business (WIN) program, implemented by TechnoServe and funded by the Embassy of Sweden in Mozambique, highlights how media products like radio and TV shows and Interactive Voice Response (IVR) programs can be powerful tools for creating social and economic change among audiences while also enabling the private sector to reach untapped portions of the population and expand market opportunities.

Media as a tool for women’s economic empowerment

To help change attitudes around women’s entrepreneurship and increase the incomes of women business owners, WIN partnered with a range of media actors to co-create content for women entrepreneurs. WIN evaluated, suggested, and co-invested in pilots, tracked the impact on audiences, and supported partners in developing new funding mechanisms.

One example is WIN’s partnership with Anima–a Mozambican creative content production, communication, and social development company–to launch a radio soap opera called Janete that aimed to enhance women’s business skills using storytelling about a successful entrepreneur.

Janete was created to entertain and reinforce key themes around entrepreneurship, women’s economic empowerment, and gender norms to an audience of over 200,000 micro-entrepreneurs, 40,000 of whom were women. The radio soap opera focused on attracting women to entrepreneurship, supporting them to improve business performance, and changing attitudes and norms of both men and women around women’s entrepreneurship.

Janete’s extraordinary success evolved into a sponsored social media platform promoting good business practices with a gender lens. For Anima, the partnership with WIN transformed the intervention into an actual business model by capturing increased donor funding from international development agencies for the radio soap opera and product placement funding from M-Pesa, a mobile phone-based money transfer service, for its social media offering.

Another example is the partnership developed with TV Sucesso–a Maputo-based TV channel– to co-design and produce a weekly segment called Clínica de Negócios (Business Clinic) on a popular TV show. The segment is designed to improve the business savviness of women by presenting female micro-entrepreneurs and business professionals as speakers to provide information on topics like inventory management, savings strategies, financing options, separating business and personal finances, and more.

Clínica de Negócios was able to reach over 382,000 individuals, nearly 60% of whom were women. This popularity was achieved by adopting an innovative approach to content creation which required identifying and catering to the specific interests of women and going beyond common gender stereotypes.

WIN-win: a business case for women and the media

To be sustained, gender-responsive content needs to make commercial sense for media companies and their advertisers. One of the goals of WIN’s media initiative was to work with partners to create content that would generate continuous revenue streams to allow the media programs to confidently develop new iterations. WIN built the business case for these interventions, which included the following dimensions:

  • The opportunity to diversify the audiences for media programs and help advertisers reach new markets
  • The ability to generate more targeted and relevant content that challenges typical gender stereotypes to increase audience retention and engagement
  • The creation of opportunities for product placement leveraging women’s purchasing power
  • Enabling mixed funding mechanisms involving private sector companies and nonprofits

The goal is that these benefits will entice media companies and their advertisers to continue investing in gender-responsive programming.

The impact of media

Already we see the enormous impact such programming can have. Across its media activities, WIN was able to reach more than 962,000 entrepreneurs and over 450,000 women micro-entrepreneurs (and potential micro-entrepreneurs), providing them with access to relevant information on business best practices, financial management, and gender norms. The interventions’ impact included:

  • 25,000 women reporting increased or greater control of income/ savings
  • 56,000 women reporting that they adopted new business practices like using more formal methods for separating money for personal and business use, stock inventory management, increased savings, and customer service, to name a few.
  • 28,000 men reporting their attitudes shifted regarding gender roles and norms

The media has the ability to shape attitudes and create a supportive environment for women’s economic empowerment. At the same time, players in the media sector, such as media channels, advertisers, and research companies, benefit from reaching and engaging wider audiences for their programs, advertisements, and data analysis services. Unlocking these opportunities will require greater collaboration across the media sector, civil society, and government: By joining forces, we can drive meaningful change and put women in the driver’s seat of their economic future.


Share this story

Leave a Reply



Next Event

Business Fights Poverty Global Goals Summit 2024