Women in Grassroots Communication: Furthering Social Change


Edited by: Pilar Riaño

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  • Communication and Human Values

    Series Editors

    Robert A. White, Editor, The Centre of Interdisciplinary Studies in Communication, The Gregorian University, Rome, Italy

    Michael Traber, Associate Editor, World Association for Christian Communication, London, UK

    International Editorial Advisory Board

    Binod C. Agrawal, Development and Educational Communication, Space Applications Centre, Ahmedabad, India

    Luis Ramiro Beltrán, La Paz, Bolivia

    S. T. Kwame Boafo, UNESCO, Paris

    James W. Carey, University of Illinois, USA

    Marlene Cuthbert, University of Windsor, Canada

    William F. Fore, Yale Divinity School, USA

    George Gerbner, University of Pennsylvania, USA

    James D. Halloran, University of Leicester, UK

    Cees Hamelink, Institute of Social Studies, The Hague, The Netherlands

    Neville D. Jayaweera, Sri Lanka

    Emile G. McAnany, University of Texas, USA

    Walter J. Ong, St. Louis University, USA

    Breda Pavlic, Culture and Communication Sector, UNESCO, Paris

    Miquel de Moragas Spa, Autonomous University of Barcelona, Spain

    Anabelle Sreberny-Mohammadi, Centre for Mass Communication Research, University of Leicester, UK


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    To the memory of Maria Elena Moyano and Amparo Parra


    Editing this book would not have been possible if I had not received exceptional intellectual, emotional, and practical support from a number of people. Dorothy Kidd provided me with the opportunity to discuss and exchange ideas throughout the entire editing process. Her criticisms, information, and editorial assistance have been most relevant to this effort. Dean Brown volunteered to do the translations from Spanish to English. I am very grateful for the dedication, time, and excellence of his work and for his unconditional friendship. Ann Mackleam's editorial comments challenged me and provided invaluable suggestions. Pat Howard's review of earlier drafts of the introduction and framework were very helpful. Thanks to Francisco Ibañez for his suggestions and willingness to read the manuscript.

    Contacting contributors was not an easy task. I am most thankful to Jhothy Ghadham, Nancy George, Bruce Giroux, Vanessa Marmentini, Mary E. Brown, Patricia Ardila, Harry E. Brown, and Louise Ettling who provided me with contacts and excellent ideas.

    The support I received from Les Abreo with photocopies, faxes, and transcripts is very much appreciated. Garth Manning provided much needed help in typing and Ita Margalit and Mario Lee with computer time.

    I am especially grateful to Bob White, editor of this series, for his unique guidance, critical comments, and understanding. The World Association for Christian Communication provided a grant that made my initial engagement in the editing task possible. Special thanks to Michael Traber and Philip Lee in WACC for their help and to Intermedia in the United States.

    I want to express my deepest appreciation to all the contributors in this book. Their works have influenced my thinking and provided intellectual stimulation and challenge. I appreciate the hard work put into writing the chapters despite the authors’ personal and national difficulties, and their lack of resources and time. Special thanks to Maria Protz who made special efforts in identifying contributors and for her enthusiasm and feedback.

    During the time I spent in Colombia working on this manuscript, I had the opportunity to discuss its main ideas with my sister Ivonne Riaño. Thanks also to the Urban Circle of Anthropology (URBANOS) for their discussion and comments. And to my parents, Jaime and Cecilia, who have encouraged and supported me throughout this time. Finally, I express my deepest thanks to my children, Andrea, Raphaelle, Gabriel, and Sebastian, who had to suffer my tension, stress, and lack of time because I was finishing the manuscript on my “free time” away from a full-time job. To my son Sebastian who became the first user of this book, finding difficult words for his spelling assignments and who so early in life has become aware that his mother is a “feminist.” My friend and husband, Barry Wright, has been a great assistant in the editing task, but most important, his emotional and practical support were fundamental for finishing this book. Thanks.


    This book documents the diversity of grassroots communication experiments carried out by Third World women: These women come together to voice their concerns, name who they are, share and build projects of change. These women create communication spaces that involve speaking, writing, dancing, meeting, story telling, media production, and networking. Communication spaces represent a terrain for expression and collective action for transformation. Yet they are also alternative spaces for promoting the processes of transforming the individual subject and the collective “we”: spaces for organizing across differences and/or around commonalities of gender, class, race, and sexual orientation.

    The term grassroots communication is used here not as a conceptual framework but as a descriptive category that encompasses a variety of communication processes, practices, and systems that are distinguished by their grassroots origin. Falling into this general category are women's informal communication practices, networks and associations, interpersonal and group communication, performing arts, cultural and artistic artifacts, writing, media produced in a group setting, folk and community media, and indigenous communication systems and practices.1 Along the same lines, the term participatory communication is used here as a descriptive category that refers to the active involvement of a community or group in using media or group communication to produce their own messages and to engage audiences in critical reception (Riaño, 1990). At the end of this book is a glossary that contains the definition, or definitions, of the key concepts used here. The concepts defined in the glossary appear in boldface type at first use.

    The women who have contributed to this book constitute a very special group, as they all are or have been participants or facilitators in participatory communication processes and/or in social and women's movements. Their contributions introduce regional frameworks and concerns from Africa, Asia, Latin America, and North America. Although most of them are linked to universities or research centers, their writing and communication pursuits extend beyond academic research to the articulation of their commitment to change and to the development of new forms of grassroots communication. Their contributions offer the freshness and creativity inherent in their practical experiences as well as the critical analysis and perceptiveness generated from their organizational and research links.

    Although the contributors are from different regions, this book does not offer a complete and balanced coverage of grassroots communication experiences of women in all regions of the world. There are significant geographical gaps, particularly contributions from Europe, the Baltics, and the former USSR countries. Disproportionately more articles come from Latin America. This reflects in part my limited access to and knowledge of literature and peoples from other regions and my closer ties and familiarity with Latin America. The emphasis here is to cover the various analytical dimensions of grassroots communication while acknowledging the regional-geographical contributions and variations.

    This collection of chapters is a dialogue about women's grassroots communication experiences with two main sets of goals: an analysis of the contribution women are making to processes of social change and the role communication plays in activating women's alternatives for social change. Two sets of questions guide this dialogue:

    • The role of women in communication and grassroots participation: How and to what extent are Third World women with grassroots communication creating communication avenues for the democratization of communications and for the construction of alternatives that foster social change? What does the evidence reveal about the nature, dynamics, and operationalization of such participation in grassroots communication?
    • The role communication plays in activating women's alternatives for change: How are grassroots communication processes consolidating women's views and perspectives on gender subordination and social change? How are these connections and social identities being built through communication by women? To what extent do these processes reveal a growing sense of identity based on pluralism and the acknowledgment of differences of gender, race, and class identities?

    This book's contributors connect the discussions emerging from their experiences in the field with those originating in communication, development, and feminist scholarship. They describe principles and concerns that link this dialogue to the debate on the democratization of communications. These principles and concerns constitute the connecting ideas of the book and the guiding concepts of our framework. They refer to (a) the conception of women as social actors in communication, as subjects active in directing the cultural orientation of their social actions; (b) the rooting of their communication experiences and ways of communicating in the local, daily reality of their social environment (neighborhood, village, community, or nation); (c) the definition of communication enterprises as acts of naming and reframing histories of oppression and their articulation in larger movements that seek change (i.e., the women's movement and national liberation movements); (d) the consideration of grassroots participation as a condition and foundation for processes of communication rooted in democratic principles of the horizontal circulation of ideas and continuous redistribution of power; and (e) the identification of women from a multiplicity of angles that shape their perceptions and identities—as subjects of struggles, as partners of communication, as mothers, as workers, as activists, as citizens.

    Although the various cases examined focus on women, the analyses are not just concerned with gender. More important, they address broader issues that connect questions of gender and communication with the various ways in which race, class, culture, sexual orientation, age, generation, history, colonialism, and the social division of labor intersect and shape women's communication experiences, social participation, and identities. Our approach to the subject emphasizes variables of diversity and complexity: the diversity contained in the category woman and the complexity of the communication strategies and processes of media production.

    Initially, the book was going to focus exclusively on women from Third World countries, arguing that one of the important dimensions in the emancipation of women is their significant role in grassroots development and their ability to make this more participatory. However, the review of experiences in North America revealed that the social movements and communication perspectives of marginalized groups such as women of Color, Aboriginal women, immigrant women, and lesbians have some commonalities with the liberation goals of women from the Third World and with the concerns that guide various communicative strategies and methods. Furthermore, a concept of Third World based not only in geographical location but in sociohistorical conjunctures (such as among the poor and marginalized of the North) provided the framework within which the contributions from North America are included.

    My task as editor of the book has also been influenced by many of the same concerns and commitments as its contributors. I am a Colombian anthropologist and communicator who has been living in Canada for the last seven years. Editing this book provided the opportunity to place several years of training and research experience in a broader perspective. This experience is in the use of popular communication tools and the development of communication strategies for community development and mobilization with Colombian unions, women's and youth groups, cultural and neighborhood associations or with victims of violence. My interest in this book developed from these years but has been furthered by my research work on Latin American popular culture and participatory communication in development programs with women in Third World countries. My reflection on women's grassroots communication and alternative communication strategies has been enriched by my work in Canada with immigrants and refugees, and by my “location” as a Latina and a woman of Color who alternates between academia, research, activism, and training and between Latin America and North America.

    As my work on the book advanced, my analysis and approach to the subject matter became more and more influenced by the analyses developed by the book's contributors and their regional frameworks. I have been particularly inspired by the pioneering work on popular communication and culture that is being developed in Latin America. This special relationship allowed me to establish a connection between my daily life as a researcher and community activist and my writing. My writing style reflects such a background, distancing itself from a mere linear structure of thought, including a variety of concepts from Latin America.

    I would like to make explicit some of the key concepts that originate in this Latin American approach as they underscore many of the discussions included in this book. In particular, the analysis of communication processes from the perspective of social movements and the multifaceted characteristics of everyday life. The notion of social movements recognizes nontraditional forms of participation and organized social expressions that, lead by social actors such as women or youth, have opened new spaces for political action. These new ways of political action are largely rooted in everyday concerns (i.e., access to urban facilities, improvement of living standards, and impact of everyday violence on families) and on experiences of oppression as members of marginalized groups. The analysis of women's leadership in urban and regional social movements, for example, recognizes that the role played by Third World women in the community and the domestic realm is wide and three tiered: reproductive (childbearing and child rearing), productive (as secondary income earners through informal activities or agricultural work), and community management work (allocation of limited resources to ensure the survival of the household) (Moser, 1989). The existence of a collective memory that despite historical attempts to subordinate and silence popular classes2 has evolved as a positive underground and silent process is a key concept in understanding the construction of oppositional identities and the vitality of women's grassroots communication. The concept of identity is grounded in notions of change and mestizaje. Individual and group identities are continuously recreated with new cultural and sectorial fusions (the rural and the urban, the massive and the traditional, the ethnic and the generational). Mestizaje recalls the processes of cultural fusion that characterizes any Latin American cultural expression.

    Organization of the Book

    The book is divided into four related parts. While the first part of the book provides a general framework on gender and participation in communication, the following parts present the three fundamental dimensions of women's grassroots communication processes: the social and community dimension, the media dimension, and the organizational and networking dimension.

    Part I reviews the various frameworks for addressing the relationship among women, participation, and communication, looking both at the ways women have been perceived and at discourses on participation and communication framed around women's issues. As we cannot discuss and compare grassroots communication practices in different countries without understanding the societal context in which they evolved, this part introduces an analysis of the societies of reference. Furthermore, I elaborate on the definitions of participation and empowerment present in the collection and introduce the key descriptors of grassroots communication with women.

    This part also reviews gender issues in communication by highlighting key elements from the chapters and establishing a critical dialogue with the literature in this field. The review reveals a tendency to define women in monolithic terms and to associate women with notions of passivity, victimization, and isolation. On the contrary, the contributors to this collection view women as diverse subjects and social actors, as subjects of their collective histories, as heterogeneous groups with different experiences of subordination. By placing our examination at the grassroots level and by identifying the various dimensions of women as community, social, and public communicators, a more holistic picture emerges. Issues of women's representation and access to communication resources are linked with their social roles and their participation in the exercise of community democracy and transformation. In this view, we move beyond a communication-based perspective to include dimensions of human and community development; social, economic, and cultural struggles; and organizational dynamics and change.

    The three subsequent parts of the book discuss the social and community dimensions, the media dimension, and the organizational dimension in grassroots communication. Correspondingly, women are identified as (a) social and community communicators, (b) media producers, and (c) political and collective actors.

    Part II deals with the social roles of women in their communities, their capabilities to communicate, and their informal networks at the local and community levels. Women are seen as developing their own forms of communication and skills in specific social and cultural settings. By looking at the interpersonal and collective level in women's communication practices and at the development of women's communicative competence in indigenous knowledge and informal networks, the authors introduce the foundations and dynamics at play in grassroots communication processes.

    This section presents analytical clues for understanding individual and collective levels of women's communication practices, looking at the tensions and dynamics intrinsic to the social community dimension. Thus the context and reasons for the emergence of grassroots and participatory processes, the factors hindering these movements, and the tensions arising from these processes are reviewed. The other social and community dimension considered here is that of the consumer. We look at the competencies women develop as consumers of media, the relationship to their social/community networks, and the ways women use media in their daily life.

    Part III focuses on the process of media production and issues of media competency, identity, representation, evaluation, and group process. Here the guiding issues are elaborated on for understanding group processes of media production and the skills developed in activities as consumers. The chapters present a rich variety of local and national experiences in video, radio, writing, and print production, raising issues key to understanding the potential of media production to activate women's identity processes and to support group dialogue and women's processes of coming to voice.

    Part IV is concerned with women as sociopolitical and collective actors. By looking at the connections between women's participatory practices and wider sociopolitical initiatives (coalitions, networks, social movements, liberation, and antiracist struggles), this part examines issues of organization, leadership, and communication strategies. The implications of women's communication and media production experiences in relation to the overall organizing and community-building efforts are discussed. The chapters offer a critical evaluation of communication processes that have been used in support of women's social movements and within other social movements and raise a number of issues regarding their communication strategies.


    1. Grassroots communication is identified in some of the works in this book as those communication processes that encourage grassroots participation in processes of media production. In a more conceptual definition, grassroots communication is described as those communication processes guided by the goals of education for liberation that “help the poor and underprivileged acquire a critical understanding of social reality” (Calda, 1988, p. 2).

    2. In Latin America the popular is identified with people (as arising from the people) and their cultural practices and spaces.

  • Glossary

    Alternative. In communication, alternative refers to communication initiatives or media productions that are oppositional to mainstream media and cultural industries. Alternative communication identifies with a social project that is a reaction against the dominant order (Ambrosi, 1991). According to Puntel (1992), the alternative does not lie in the means of communication per se but in the way such media are used, within a horizontal and participatory communication process. Roncagliolo (1991) concluded that alternative implies greater access and participation in the production and transmission of messages on the part of an increasing number and variety of groups. Alternative, therefore, introduces pluralism to the communication flow.

    Class. From a sociological and economic framework, class may be defined in quantitative terms as a group of individuals with a particular relationship to productive work (blue collar, white collar). Class may also be defined as a historical formation: a product of the individual's experiences of economic and social relations in a particular historical period. Class formations are identified through the observation of social processes and the characteristic responses of groups of individuals to specific situations. This includes the creation of institutions and cultures with class connotations. This is the definition used in various chapters in this book and is based on the work of British historian Thompson (1984).

    Clientelism. In Latin America, clientelism describes a relationship between politicians (patron) and their constituencies (clients) that is mediated by an exchange of services and favors (e.g., the exchange of a vote for a recommendation to a job or a place in school).

    Coalition. This is defined by Albrecht and Brewer (1990) as “groups or individuals that have come together around a particular goal. These groups operate autonomously and are usually not connected to each other; most organizations have different agendas as well. Upon completion of the shared goal, coalitions often dissolve and organizations go back to their own work” (p. 3). Alliances are seen as longer-standing relationships in which people “struggle together on a number of progressive fronts, not just on a single issue” (p. 4).

    Communication. As a social system of shared symbols and meanings, communication binds people together into a group, a community, or a culture. The relationship between communication as a symbolic process and as activator of identities is explored in several parts of this book (Chapters 2, 7, 13).

    Communication competency. This refers to the ability—skills, knowledge, and attitudes—of individuals to respond to any communicative interaction (among individuals, media consumption, story telling, or a group situation). Communication competencies are grounded in the cultural realm in both indigenous knowledge and industrial or mass culture. The knowledge and skills derived from these sources constitute a competency that individuals unconsciously use in any communicative interaction (see Chapter 6).

    Community. Community identifies geographical (e.g., village, city) or sectorial links (e.g., professional, cultural, ability, sexual orientation). As a community, these individuals share some common interests and recognize common bonds (Downing et al., 1990). The sense of community is described by the presence of a collective identity that in the terms of Dervin and Clark (1989) has existence and meaning only in communication.

    Community communication. Developed in the North, this framework advocates the rights of citizens to access the media as a public resource and their participation in decision-making processes (see Chapter 1).

    Conscientization. As defined by the Brasilian Freire (1973) conscientization refers to the ability to group in critical terms both individual and group experiences; that is, the dialectical unity between self and object. Freire saw that conscientization is a critical process that does not occur outside of practice, outside of the theory-practice, reflection-action unity.

    Consumption. Consumption refers to “a social and cultural process in which products are appropriated and used” (Valles, 1991, p. 29).

    Democracy. As related to communication, democracy involves the right to acquire and produce information, and the opening of spaces for all groups’ cultural expression. Democracy requires the continuing distribution of power.

    Democratization of communications. Democratization of communications is understood here as a process whereby (a) the individual becomes an active subject and not a mere object of communication, (b) various messages are democratically exchanged, and (c) the extent and quality of social representation or participation is augmented. This concept of democratization was articulated into the institutional field by the MacBride report Many Voices, One World (quoted in Puntel, 1992). The discussion of a new world information and communication order has relied heavily on institutional agendas and on expectations that democratization can be achieved through policy regulations and institutional change at the national and international level. In this book, we argue that an adequate debate on the democratization of communications can only be carried out successfully if all the various dimensions, components, and actors are taken into consideration at all levels, including the local and grassroots (see Chapters 1 and 2).

    Development communication. Literature on development communication and community participation is concerned with how communication and, specifically media, constitute crucial elements for developing alternatives for participation. The role of communication is associated with the processes of empowering the powerless. However, literature on development communication and community participation has failed to look at the communicational and holistic perspectives of grassroots communication initiatives. The literature has also not dealt with gender as an analytical dimension in their frameworks. References to gender are limited to identifying the gender of the participants and to describing the subordinate position of women in their communities and societies. Neither the ways in which gender influences the nature of participation and communication production nor the mediation of gender in women's and men's experiences of subordination have been taken into consideration. Chapter 1 presents a detailed review of this framework.

    Empowerment. Chapter 2 presents the various understandings of this term by the various frameworks addressing the relationship among women, participation, and communication.

    Ethnicity. This is belonging or being perceived by others as belonging to an ethnic group. Ethnicity is seen here as a changing feature that according to the cultural and social environment does not refer so much to static survival from the historical past but rather to the modern and modernizing feature of a contrasting strategy (Sollors, 1989).

    Feminism. Feminism is understood here as a movement for the “redefinition and redistribution of power” (Maguire, 1987, p. 79). Feminism is both a social theory and a political framework that recognizes the oppression of women and the commitment to end such oppression. Feminist principles advocate the defense of women's rights and the need to build alternative paradigms for social theory and research. Movements for the defense of women's rights have been part of the struggles of many communities both in the north and the south. Feminism, according to this view, encompasses women's social movements worldwide and recognizes the specific roots in local/regional civil rights and social struggles. The contemporary social and political agendas of such feminisms are influenced by the specific regional circumstances.

    Feminist anthropology. This field has developed a framework to look at “the complex ways in which gender, race and class intersect and cross cut each other, as well as the way in which all three intersect with colonialism, the International Division of Labour and the rise of the modern state” (Moore, 1988, p. 10). If the feminist anthropological task is defined as one of studying differences, the field has been concerned with exploring how gender identities are constructed and the various culturally mediated perceptions of what it is to be a “woman” or a “man.” Although the field is concerned with issues of identity, person-hood, and representation, which are all intrinsically embedded in communication, the role that communication plays in shaping identities and in defining relations between individuals has been disregarded. At the same time, there has not been any attempt to apply the insights of feminist anthropology to the field of communication (Burton, 1985; Moore, 1988; Ortner & Whitehead, 1981; Strathern, 1987, 1990). The journal Signs frequently includes articles by feminist anthropologists. See also Chapter 2.

    Gender and development (GAD). This framework looks at gender as a constitutive principle of social life. GAD literature has focused on an analysis of gender as a socially constructed relationship, shaped and sanctioned by values held by the members of society (Young, 1988). GAD identifies the social construction of production and reproduction as the basis of women's oppression (Rathgebher, 1989b). However, communication relations and practices have not been systematically included in this analysis. Communication, as the basic dimension/experience shaping social relationships, has not been taken into account as a central factor in the structuring of gender and cultural definitions of women (see Benería & Sen, 1986; ISIS, 1984; Rathgebher, 1989b; Stamp, 1989; Young 1988).

    Grassroots communication. See Preface.

    Group media. This term describes media production and broadcasting in small groups with the specific goals of education and social action. Sometimes it is used with alternative and low-scale technologies (see Chapter 1).

    Indigenous knowledge. This is accumulated specific knowledge among a community with shared cultural practices. Indigenous knowledge includes the concepts, belief structures, explanatory systems, and analytical perspectives that define a community. It includes skills and practices on the environment and the natural resources, health, communication, and work skills critical to survival (Bernard, 1991).

    Mestizaje. As understood in Latin America, mestizaje does not represent any particular ethnic essence but recalls the mixing of indigenous, black, rural, and urban cultural influences. Mestizaje does not embody cultural purity, but rather imitation, altered readings, and an energy that underlies ways of talking, telling, and perceiving. Over the time mestizo has come to signify a mixed population, the product of many generations of intermarriage (indigenous, Spanish, black).

    Minorities. Wilson and Gutiérrez (1985) offered a contrasting definition: When used in its statistical sense, the term “minorities” refers to groups that are small in number, less than the majority. It has often been applied to people of Color in the United States because as individual groups, Blacks, Latinos, Asians, and Native American do not constitute a large percentage of the national population. It has become a convenient umbrella under which to put any group that is not white. But it is also a misleading label. It misleads the person using the term to think of those who carry the label as small not only in number, but in importance. It also can make the interests and issues raised by “minorities” appear to be less meaningful than those of the majority. And, finally, it is no longer a statistically accurate term in many cases. (p. 13)

    Modernization. As applied to development theories and policies, modernization initiatives argue for the updating of structures and practices in Third World countries. Modernization attempts in the Third World to promote development, the welfare of the community, and its homogenization through the introduction of technological innovation, external models of industrialization, control of urbanization, and cultural diffusion.

    Participation. The uses of the word participation in the communication field are discussed throughout this book. In the framework presented here, participation generally refers to control and ownership rather than to physical presence (see also Chapter 1).

    People of Color. Hurtado (1989) defines people of Color as comprising various ethnic groups that are all minorities such as Chicanos, Asians, Native Americans, and blacks. Color is capitalized here because it refers to specific ethnic groups.

    Popular. In North America, the popular tends to be associated to wide consumption or acceptance, thus with mass cultural industry. Popular, however, also means as related to people. This is the use of the term in this book. The term popular as associated to people denotes a movement of emancipation. People is distinct from the “mass” of the mass media or mass consumption. People refers to those who are powerless and who are involved in gaining control of their own lives (Puntel, 1992).

    Popular communication. Framework originated in Latin America to describe communication initiatives and media production controlled by powerless groups (see Chapter 1).

    Public. Stamp (1989) and March and Taqqu (1986) have shown the conceptual confusion and variety of meanings attached to the word public. March and Taqqu provided the two primary competing ideas:

    (1) “the public” that is, a conception of collectivity in whose name action is undertaken; and (2) “public” in the sense of “out in the open,” or no secret, as in the “public eye.” … The concept of “public” then, subsumes two major facets: the nature of the collectivity involved, and the nature of the space or style in which that collectivity operates.

    Race. Gilroy (1992, pp. 38–40) defined race as an analytical, relational, and political category. Race does not correspond to any biological or epistemological absolutes, but to the power that collective identities acquire by means of their roots in tradition (see also Chapter 5).

    Role. Role is understood as a dynamic concept describing a complex and varied set of functions and interactions that are defined by power relations and occur in a given context and at a specific time. Stamp (1989), Burton (1985), and Moore (1988) argued that an excessive emphasis on the role of women reinforces the belief that women are more central to gender relations than men. Furthermore, the concept of role might reinforce an idea of given and assumed social functions of women, missing the power dynamics and relations of control in which men's and women's activities and functions are negotiated (see Chapter 2).

    Social actor. This term has been used in social movements theory as an alternative concept that places the research emphasis on the subjects and their own perspectives and perceptions, rather than on the researcher and his or her own framework. The term emphasizes the activity of the subjects in defining and directing the cultural and social orientation of their social actions.

    Social movement. Jelin (1990) and Sénécal (1991) saw social movements as nontraditional, nonconventional, or noninstitutionalized forms of participation. A social movement groups individuals by a common goal of social action such as the defense of human rights, land claims, housing, food supply, urban services, and racial discrimination. Most important, a social movement represents a new view of engaging in politics (e.g., the feminist approach that the personal is political) and new forms of social relations and social organization (more horizontal relations, solidarity networks, alternative lifestyles, etc.). Sénécal (1991) summarized:

    Their otherness is not foreign to the discourse of feminists, ecologists, populists, pacifists, homosexuals, etc. Each of these movements leaded for a variety of social actors seek to create a new social reality, a new culture, a new logic for all aspects of life, including the technology and skills of audio-visual communications. (p. 213)

    South. As used here, South refers to countries in the Southern Hemisphere that are economically dependent on and, from a model of industrial capitalism, seen as less developed than those countries in the North. The word has been used to avoid negative connotations that terms such as developing countries or Third World countries may have.

    Third World feminism. Included here is an extensive and very rich body of literature and feminist agendas carried out by various groups of women in the Third World. Although there is a wide regional variation in these approaches, there are some common concerns relating to the need to build alliances that recognize the multifaceted experiences of class, gender, sexual identity, and race (Anzaldúa, 1990a; hooks, 1989, 1990).

    Third World women. Acknowledging that the term Third World women is a much maligned and contested one, Mohanty, Russo, and Torres (1991) used it to refer to the “colonized, neo-colonized or decolonized countries (of Asia, Africa and Latin America) whose economic and political structures have been deformed within the colonial process, and to Black, Asian, Latino, and indigenous peoples in North America, Europe and Australia” (p. ix).

    Woman/women. Mohanty (1991, p. 53) clarifies the conceptual distinction between woman “as a cultural and composite Other constructed through diverse representational discourses” and women “as real collective subjects of their collective histories.” As the focus of this book is on practical experiences, we will refer mostly to women.


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    About the Authors

    Rosa María Alfaro is the Director of the Association of Social Communicators of Peru, Calandria, and Professor at the University of Lima. She has published Palabra de Mujer, De la Conquista de la Ciudad a la Apropiación de la Palabra, and Cultura Popular y Cultura de Masas en la Radio Peruana, as well as several articles in Latin American and European journals.

    Susan Y. Dyer-Bennem is a Feature Writer for the Women's Art Magazine of the Women Artists Slide Library in London and has published several essays in Anthology of African-American Women Artists. For the past five years she has been a Domestic Violence Counselor for the M.E.N. program in Rochester, New York, working with men who batter women.

    Jennifer Kawaja is a Caribbean Writer and Video Film Producer. She works and lives in Toronto. She has had extensive experience in participatory media and has worked with groups of immigrants, women, and youth.

    Dorothy Kidd is completing her Ph.D. in Communications. Her research examines how women use community radio for social change. Since the 1960s, she has also worked in a number of different grassroots media, involving women's groups and other social movements.

    Libby Lloyd is the Speak magazine Radio Audio Programme (RAP) Coordinator in South Africa. She also worked as Assistant Editor of Speak magazine. She has experience as a Trade Unionist, Media Activist, and Media Worker, and she has been involved in the broad struggle for justice in South Africa.

    Marita Mata has conducted research in the area of communication at the Research Centre of the Faculty of Philosophy and Humanities at the National University of Cordoba. As a trainer and researcher, she has collaborated with the Latin American Association for Radio Education (ALER) for the last ten years.

    Rose Mensah-Kutin is the Program Officer-in-Charge of the Social Impact Assessment (SIA) program of the Ministry of Energy in Ghana. She received her master's degree in Development Studies from the Institute of Social Studies in the Hague, The Netherlands, and her graduate diploma in journalism and mass communication from the School of Communication Studies, University of Ghana. For nine years, she has been a journalist and has been involved in several NGOs in Ghana.

    Penina Mlama is a Professor of Theatre Arts at the University of Dar es Salaam in Tanzania. She has worked extensively in Theatre for Development in rural communities in Tanzania and other parts of Africa and has also been involved in the study of women and communication for development. She has published eight plays and the book Culture and Development: The Popular Theatre Approach in Africa.

    Sonia Muñoz received her Ph.D in the Science of Communication and Information from the Autonoma University in Barcelona and is Professor at the University of Valle in Cali, Colombia. Her research has focused on popular cultures, communication, women, and the city. Her publications include Barrio and Identity: Everyday Communication Among Women in the Popular Barrios, Politics in Every Day Life of Popular Women, Television and Melodrama (co-author), and The Eye, the Book, and the Screen.

    Maria Protz is a Rural Communications Consultant in Jamaica for the CIDA and the InterAmerican Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture. She recently conducted a Caribbean regional workshop on participatory communication methodologies for rural women and has also published a training manual on the use of participatory video techniques with CENDIT, in New Delhi, India. She has worked with the University of Guelph in Canada and with TV Ontario, Canada.

    Pilar Riaño is an anthropologist and communicator. She worked in Colombia for ten years implementing programs in popular communication, participatory research, and community participation. Her research has focused in the areas of popular culture, gender and communication, and participatory research. She is a consultant on community development, gender, and communication in development and a trainer on antiracism and multicultural issues.

    Clemencia Rodriguez is Assistant Professor at the University of Texas at San Antonio. She taught communication research at the University Centroamericana in Managua, Nicaragua, and at the University Javeriana in Bogota, Colombia. For several years, she worked in Colombia in the area of popular communication and conducted research on television and melodrama. Her present research involves community-based television in Catalonia. Her publications include “Media for Participation and Social Change” and When the Screen Became an Electronic Mirror.

    Carmen Ruíz is a Communicator and the Director of the Centre Gregoria Apaza for the Promotion of Women in La Paz, Bolivia. She is responsible for the project radio Pachamama, is a correspondent for the Women's Special Service (SEM), and is an active member of the Women's Directory and the Association of Institutions for Promotion and Education. Her publications include Women's Voice and Notes for a Discussion on Productive Units.

    Sharon Taylor is a Professor of Social Work at Memorial University of New Foundland, specializing in women's economic development issues. She initiated the organization Single Moms Against Poverty in Newfoundland, Canada; developed innovative teleconferencing techniques in work with native women's groups across Canada; and facilitated workshops in women's community-based economic development with faculty, graduate students, and rural women from Canada and Thailand. She is Vice-President of Canada World Youth and is an Associate of the Participatory Development Project at the East-West Center in Honolulu, Hawaii.

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