A “Radionovela” Role Model Inspires Women Entrepreneurs in Mozambique

A special radio program in Mozambique is helping women gain the skills and confidence to break business barriers

Janete, a young entrepreneur in Mozambique, had a problem. She had recently started a restaurant in a new market to pay for her daughter’s university fees. But the business was not taking off in the way she expected, and her new endeavor was even creating tension at home. 

One evening, she was working late and didn’t have time to make dinner before her husband got home. He was furious, and ranted about how her business was interfering with her household duties. Janete was torn–she wanted to keep the peace at home, but also maintain her business.

women entrepreneur mozambique
A promotional photo for the “Janete” radionovela

What was she going to do?

Janete is not actually a real entrepreneur. But she shares many of the challenges that real enterprising women do in Mozambique.

Janete is a character in a radio drama broadcast in four languages throughout the southern African country. Developed as part of a TechnoServe program to promote women’s economic empowerment, this “radionovela” represents the very real challenges women entrepreneurs around the world face every day. 

In sub-Saharan Africa, women are more likely than men to become entrepreneurs – but when they do, their profits are 38% lower, on average. For women to make progress, they not only need better access to business training, but support dealing with restrictive gender norms.

As part of their larger effort supporting women entrepreneurs in Mozambique, the TechnoServe staff sought to address both these challenges—through a radio drama.

The “Edutainment” Role Model for Women Entrepreneurs

TechnoServe helps women in low-income communities in Mozambique to develop their business potential, through approaches that address underlying, systemic challenges. TechnoServe works with local partners in the public and private sectors to enable them to continue this progress far into the future. (This program is called Women in Business, financed by The Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency.)

To help women in Mozambique attain better business skills–while breaking down harmful gender stereotypes–the TechnoServe team adopted an “edutainment” approach, bundling key messages into an engaging story.

The “Janete” radionovela was born.

The “Janete” radionovela is part of a larger TechnoServe program to improve women’s empowerment in Mozambique

Over the course of 26 episodes, Janete–and by extension, her listeners–learn key business skills. A chatty client gives Janete valuable tips on customer service. An unexpected visit from a women’s activist prompts a lesson in recordkeeping.

And then in one episode, Janete’s experience with her angry husband leads to a discussion of how well her restaurant is doing–and how her business success benefits the whole household. Her husband acknowledges this, and calms down.

Janete’s story helps women improve their own economic empowerment on a wider scale, says TechnoServe’s WIN Market Systems Manager Renata Makhoul.

“Broadcasting gender-sensitive information and improving the image of women entrepreneurs in the media helps women acquire the confidence and information they need to start and expand their businesses—which ultimately increases their incomes,” she explains.

How “Janete” Changed Minds in Mozambique

So far, the Janete radio program has reached nearly 200,000 people across Mozambique. One of them is Isabel Matola, 36. Living in a suburb of the capital, Maputo, she recently started a business selling secondhand clothes.

However, much like the radionovela character Janete, Isabel’s husband was not supportive of her business. He was jealous of her regular contact with clients – particularly the men – and could be verbally abusive toward her. 

After listening to the story of Janete, Isabel realized that many women went through the same problems as she did, and learned that one of the ways to overcome this conflict was through dialogue. Drawing courage from Janete’s experience, Isabel was able to talk to her husband and explain the benefits that the business would bring for her and the family in general.

“Today, I can do my business without going through any issues with my husband – be it psychological or emotional – thanks to Janete’s tips,” she says.

But women aren’t the only ones who listen to the radionovela. Another listener is Raimundo Mabunda, who owns a small plot of land in Maputo Province. Raimundo was an engaged listener of the radionovela from the beginning. He absorbed the story of Janete from his mobile phone and saw how she started her business in the market and expanded it with the support of family members. 

Since listening, Raimundo has slowly changed his perceptions of women’s abilities.  “I learned that after all, women aren’t only capable of housework,” he says. “They are intelligent and able to reinvent themselves in terms of a new business.”

“Today, I can do my business without going through any issues with my husband, thanks to Janete’s tips.”

– Isabel Matola, entrepreneur

How Radio Improves Learning Around the World

As entertaining as the Janete radionovela can be, it was developed with careful attention to core principles of remote learning through radio.

Over the years, TechnoServe has integrated radio into many of its programs. These efforts accelerated during the COVID-19 pandemic, when small-scale farmers and entrepreneurs had to continue training programs at a distance.

The team broadcasted agronomic training to farmers; ran radio call-in shows to provide business advice; and pursued other “edutainment” options, like a radio drama in Ethiopia that conveyed coffee farming advice.

With this experience around the world, TechnoServe developed a report on “Radio as Part of a Remote and Blended Learning Strategy”. It includes the following guidance on developing effective radio training programs like “Janete”:

  • Consider the audience first and foremost 
  • Integrate radio with other tools to reinforce learning 
  • Design the program to facilitate high levels of user engagement
  • Repurpose and repackage the audio content in multiple formats 
  • Balance entertainment with relevance and educational value 
  • Ensure that the audience can see themselves reflected in the content

The TechnoServe team is now building on the success of the radionovela to reach even more people, many of whom are increasingly engaged on social media. “The radionovela has built a loyal audience of listeners showing high potential if another medium was used,” says TechnoServe’s Renata Makhoul. “Now ‘Janete’ is on Facebook, aiming to reach a wider audience.”

Help women entrepreneurs gain the confidence and skills to succeed in business.