New media, participation and social change among women in Northern Ghana

Start date: 23 October, 2015 End date: 21 November, 2015 Project type: Master's Thesis (prior to 2018) Project code: A29078 Countries: Ghana Institutions: Roskilde University (RUC), Denmark Grant recipient: Pernille Kristensen Total grant: 14,000 DKK



This thesis is build around a single-case study, which focus on seven young Ghanaian women participating in the development project: ‘Youth Speak Up!’ driven by the Danish NGO ‘Ghana Venskabsgrupperne’ and the Ghanaian NGO ‘Youth Empowerment for Life’ in the Northern parts of Ghana.

With a communication-ethnographic approach and central analytical concepts from the research area ‘communication for social change’, this thesis highlights and investigates whether the YSU project involves changes for the participating women at two fundamental levels: 1) individual change and 2) social change. The thesis works around qualitative empirical data derived from a four-week fieldtrip in Northern Ghana, November 2015. 

The findings of this thesis proves that the accepted social norms are not to speak as a woman, which directly influence how the women participate to the extent where women are finding it difficult to engage in conversations on equal terms with men. Social norms have made it normal for a woman to be quiet when men are present. As a consequence, women are cautious to talk, which most of the women expressed. The participation and social change potential in the YSU project is therefore influenced by these socially accepted norms.

By looking at the women’s everyday media usage, this thesis outlines how seven women depict great differences in terms of their media access and media usage. The differences among the seven women indicates that their starting points are different, which influence their social change potential. This marks the need to re-consider the women participating in the YSU project as well as their characteristics in terms of media usage and everyday life. This is important in order to ensure that the YSU project can involve processes of change for all women.

Besides the diversity in media usage and access, this thesis has found that the YSU project is much more than solely access and usage. The YSU project creates a dialogic space, in which the participating women can engage with like-minded youths who share some of the same concerns.

This like-minded dialogue is essential to the YSU project. It creates a sense of community for the women where decisions and actions can be carried out collectively. The women can engage in change processes that go beyond individual behavior and break down some of those social norms that both women and men are accepting.

Conclusively, this thesis argues that the seven women interviewed are in a process of breaking out of the gendered social norms that hinder women to speak and remain quiet participants in the YSU project. These seven women have, to varying degrees, gained new media skills and knowledge, while engaging in new social behaviors. Meanwhile, they are taking leadership, showing ownership and acting on behalf of their communities. The YSU project is thus enhancing both processes of individual change and social change for the women involved.