Women urged to be forthcoming as news sources

The self-monitoring exercise conducted in 2012-2013 shows that the proportion of women sources in Zimbabwe media has gone up by five percentage points from 17 percent in the 2010 Gender and Media Progress Study (GMPS).

According to the Gender Links 2013 SADC Gender Barometer, women sources constitute 22 percent of the proportion of the people that contribute to the news, but the women’s movement in Zimbabwe says it is not enough.

Addressing participants at the International World Press Freedom Day: Candid Talk held under the theme “ Consolidating the Media and Civil Society Organisations Relations” at the U.S Embassy Public Affairs section today, representatives of women’s organisations called for increased visibility and participation of women in contributing to the news.

Director of the Humanitarian Information Facilitation Centre, and Women’s Coalition Chairperson, Virginia Muwanigwa said it is important for women across all sectors to be forthcoming as news sources to ensure a balance in the proportion of women sources in Zimbabwean media.

“Women should accept that bad publicity is still publicity,” she said.

“Either way, it puts you in the limelight and sometimes the media does not want to be continuously struggling to get you as news sources. Women should be forthcoming and they should not shy away from the media.”

Muwanigwa said the media should be gender sensitive and ensure that they give the gender dimension to all the stories that they cover.

“Gender issues are not women’s issues because they are issues that affect both men and women. It is important for media practitioners to be professional in their conduct to avoid a scenario where women fear to become news sources.”

Engage

Media Information Southern Africa Zimbabwe, Programmes Officer, Kholiwe Nyoni- Majama urged the women’s movement to utilise the new social media to champion and leverage the gender agenda.

She said: “There is no engagement on the new social media by women’s organisations.

“We have very few women speaking on the socio, economic and political issues that are happening in Zimbabwe although the opportunities are there on facebook, twitter among a host of other platforms.”

She said there is no justification for women to shy away from the media and expect to be at par with male sources, who she said are forthcoming to speak about any issue.

Said Majama: “It is very difficult to get female voices because the women are not willing to give their views to the media and it could be that they fear to engage the media.

“Women’s organisations should be media savvy,” she said, adding that the news making process did not give room for the media to play the public relations role.

“There are instances when there is a lot of bureaucracy especially with women’s organisations where the comment can only be given by the Director,” said Majama.

“There is need for women’s organisations to organise themselves and ensure that they have a collective response which can be given by anyone from that particular organisation.”

The International Women’s Media Foundation’s Global Report on the Status of Women in the News Media reported that a free flow of information is an essential ingredient of open and democratic societies.

Reported the IWMF: ”There can be no full freedom of the press until women have an equal voice in the news-gathering and news dissemination processes.”

Balance

ZiFM, Chief Executive Director, Susan Makore called for women across the political divide to voice their concerns through the media and ensure that they are forthcoming whenever they are contacted by media personnel.

“We have roles as mothers, aunts, sisters and wives but that should not be the excuse to use whenever we are contacted to contribute to the news,” said Makore.

She said it is important for women to strike a balance between their personal and professional lives and take part in formulating news.

“Women are afraid to be in the news and in the limelight. They do not want to be quoted,” she said.

Tendai Garwe, the Media, Communications and Advocacy officer of the Women’s Trust believes that women have not harnessed the power that they have to their advantage.

She said: “We have room through the new social media to push our agenda.”

“The way that women are presented paints a bad picture and it reinforces gender stereotypes.”

“There is need for continued engagement between the media and CSOs as a means of ensuring women’s voices are given space in the media.”

The 2010- 2011 ZDHS revealed that the exposure of women to the mainstream media remained low, with only eight percent of the female respondents and 17 percent of the male respondents having exposure to newspapers, television and radio at least once a week.

Read the 2013 SADC Gender Barometer by the Gender Links: “Gender equality and women's empowerment are slowly becoming issues on the media's news agenda, but women's access to freedom of expression in and through the media remains low.

“Gender and media activism in Zimbabwe remains weak,” read the Gender Links SADC Barometer.

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