Media urged to promote gender parity
GENDER Links Chief Executive Officer Colleen Lowe Morna says the media needs to equip itself to promote a gender and rights-based culture in Africa.
Ms Morna’s comments are captured in the recently published 2015 Southern African Gender and Media Progress Study titled Whose News.
The study brings together several studies in content monitoring, tracking of women and men within the media and gender in media education.
Ms Morna said the study provided a wealth of data on every possible parameter and that sadly every one of them showed that at best change towards gender parity in the media has been gradual; at worst “we have regressed”.
She said that this study further showed that the only area of the media in which women predominate is in media studies.
She said the 40 to 60 radio of women and men employed in media houses remained the same, with women comprising over a third of media managers, up from 27 percent in the 2009 Glass Ceiling report.
Lesotho is one of the countries maintaining under-representation of women in the media with just 43 percent representation.
Swaziland (55 percent) has the highest proportion of women in the media and Malawi was the lowest at 26 percent.
Ms Morna however said it was still “a man’s world” in the media corridors of power.
“On the content front, we have gone from 17 percent women sources at baseline in 2003 to 20 percent in this latest study: a mere three percent increase, and four percent lower than the global average (24 percent), a figure that has remained static over the last five years,” Ms Morna said.
She said the only area to have achieved parity was that of the proportion of women and men appearing in advertisements.
She said while women sources were higher in television than in any other medium yet men still out-number women as news anchors.
“The simple message is that the media would rather see than hear women,” Ms Morna said.
She said the report challenged the media to go back to its own values and principles.
She said the media must equip itself to deal with these diverse realities and to promote a rights-based culture.
“The big challenge as we work towards 2030 is how to make these changes come about, over the last five years Gender Links worked within 100 newsrooms that elected to become Centres of Excellence (COE) for Gender in Media,” Ms Morna said, adding that with only 22 percent of women sources compared to 19 percent for non-COE’s, the COE’s performed better than their counterparts.
She said it was however more encouraging that the qualitative evidence showed that real change was possible for those who went the distance.
“The lesson, however, is that these gains are slow and they are fragile. Changes in the political environment and in leadership, is witnessed in Mauritius where we report that an unfortunate regression can jeopardise gains made,” she said.
Meanwhile, the report states that the southern African region must confront several challenges as it attempts to address the needs and aspirations of its 100 million people; 40 percent of whom live in extreme poverty.
The report states that the Southern African Development Community (SADC)’s greatest challenge continued to be the need to build a life for its people free from poverty, disease, human rights abuse, gender inequality and environmental degradation.
While the Lesotho constitution does not directly mention press freedom, the report said that it guarantees freedom of express and information exchange.
“However, multiple laws, including Sedition Proclamation No.44 of the 1938 and the Internal Security (General) Act 1984 prohibit criticism of the government, provide penalties for seditious libel, and endanger reporters’ ability to protect the confidentiality of their sources,” read the report.