via African women- the missing link in the media: FXI | The Zimbabwean 22.04.14 by Sofia Mapuranga
The legacy of patriarchy is prevalent in African societies and it affects the participation of women in the media, revealed the Freedom of Expression Institute, a South African based non governmental organisation.
Said Butale: “Information is the oxygen of democracy and a free media promotes a culture of accountability.
“It encourages people to start questioning and cultivate participation and ownership of their government and country.”
Butale said because patriarchy was still prevalent in most African societies, women were overally quiet as news sources.
“Women within South African communities do not take part in the media and the media content reflects this trend.”
A joint study conducted by the Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA) and Gender Links, a southern African non governmental organisation established that women constitute only 17 percent of media sources in Southern Africa although they make up 52 percent of the population.
The study, established that women in the media were more likely to be identified as wives, daughters or mothers, than a man was likely to be identified as a husband, son or father.
“Women constitute 18 percent of the members of parliament in the region but their voices as politicians were not heard in the same proportion as men although South Africa, Mozambique and Tanzania had the highest representation of women in parliament,” read the report.
“However, the women had the lowest proportion of women politicians being accessed as news sources while the voices of older women were almost unheard and others in certain occupational categories were virtually silent.”
According to the report women’s voices were dominant as beauty contestants, sex workers and homemakers but men’s voices dominated as news sources in all sectors especially agriculture, although women provided the majority of the labour in agriculture.
Read the report: “Men’s voices dominated in the hard news categories of economics, politics and sport, and women’s voices were dominant in gender equality related issues.”
In Zimbabwe, a 2013 study conducted by the director of the Humanitarian Information Facilitation Centre, Virginia Muwanigwa, programmes officer for the Media Monitoring Project of Zimbabwe, Faith Ndlovu and Natasha Musonza, from the Research and Advocacy Unit established that women continue to be marginalised as both news sources and news subjects.
The research, commissioned by the Voluntary Media Council of Zimbabwe (VMCZ) revealed that women are prominent in the media when they are presented in a negative way as a result of the reinforcement of stereotypes for various reasons.
Said Muwanigwa: “Women remain marginalised in the media sometimes because they are reluctant to speak when they are approached for comment on many issues.
“Others have said it is also an issue emanating from the fear of being unsure of how their views are going to be presented.”
Women Empowerment Foundation Scribes Africa Director, Edinah Masanga believes that African women should be given a voice in the news considering that they constitute the majority of the populace.
“Their voices are silent, I am looking forward to the fulfilment and implementation of gender equity as a starting point for empowerment,” she said, adding that once empowered, women have the potential to change their lives, that of their families, communities and the nation.
Established in 1994, the FXI was formed to protect and foster the rights to freedom of expression and access to information as well as opposing censorship.
Formed as a merger of The Campaign for Open Media, the Anti-Censorship Action Group and the Media Defence Trust, FXI is involved in a wide range of activities including lobbying, educating, monitoring, research, publicity and litigation and the funding of legal cases that advance these rights.