Accra, Ghana – OurMedia accomplished yet another milestone as it hosted the 7^th international conference on community radio and alternative media from 11 to 15 August 2008 in Accra, Ghana. With the theme “Identity, Inclusion and Innovation,” the conference was also an auspicious event as it coincided with the 10^th year of Radio Ada, the first community radio ever built in Ghana and the 25^th year of AMARC Africa.

During the conference, Isis International community radio officer Bianca Miglioretto presented the findings of the three year and five-country research, People's Communications for Development (PC4D). The study validates the strategic and appropriateness of community radio as a means for communities to produce and receive information that matters to them. Based on the results of the key informant interviews, reviews of related literature as well as focus group discussions, radio remains the most accessible communication tool for grassroots women, with 63 per cent, followed by film and cellular phones especially in Fiji, Papua New Guinea, Philippines and Thailand.

Currently Thailand boasts of 4,000 community radios. Although there are no laws specific for community radios in Fiji, Papua New Guinea and the Philippines, community radios are nonetheless thriving. Of the five countries studies, it is India where community radio failed to rank first. But it is considered among the most accessible communication tool since it does not disrupt the routine of women either in the household or in the fields. Radio is also among the most effective and empowering communication tool for grassroots women.

Unfortunately, radio is among the often ignored aspect in the more recent communications and development policies as these have tended to focus on new information and communications technologies (ICTs).

“While radio is the most effective [communication tool], not all intermediary groups and much less grassroots organisation have access to disseminate information over the radio,” Miglioretto pointed out.

“PC4D looks at how project interventions privileged the use of new ICTs over traditional communication tools on the assumption that access to new ICTs will lead to women's empowerment,” she further explained.

It is for this reason that PC4D urges a review of the basic media infrastructure and policies, recommending greater support for community media and at the same time calls for the meaningful participation of grassroots women in developing communication policies and programmes.

PC4D also surfaced the empowerment grassroots women derive from oral and face-to-face communications, recommending that more investments be made in the direct and interactive communication work of intermediary groups, particularly when they reach out to communities and women.

Albeit the new ICTs such as the internet, computers and cellular phones were among the least accessible communication tools for by grassroots women, PC4D still promotes new ICTs particularly when these are deemed strategic and appropriate by the communities themselves and when their implementation democratises access as in the case of free and open source software (FOSS).

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