Media Urged to Be More Gender-Sensitive

Gender equality in media content and practice remains a dream for Swaziland as revealed at the SADC Protocol@Work Summit that started on 14 April 2014 at Esibayeni Lodge in Matsapha, Swaziland and runs until 16 April 2014. Comfort Mabuza, the National Media Facilitator for Swaziland revealed this hard fact at the official opening of the summit and called for the media to critique itself as an institution.

Mabuza made these remarks following extensive engagement with Swaziland media to sensitise them on gender equality in content and practice.

He lamented the gaps in policies that encourage gender equality citing that most media houses do not have policies to achieve gender equality in staffing, sexual harassment and the coverage of various beats by female and male journalists.

He added that editorial policies do not have a broad definition of fair and balanced coverage. This discrepancy perpetuates gender stereotypes, sexist language and lack of women’s voices in news. Mabuza gave the example of a popular radio show Khalamdumbadumbane, a show which analyses and solves problems related to culture. He said overall, the show degrades and belittles women in society.

Gender Links has done extensive research, training and aocacy work to address the gaps. In his presentation, Mabuza said a centres of excellence (COE) model developed by Gender Links to create gender-sensitive media is multi-pronged. “If taken seriously and if the will is there, the media can become democratic institutions that serve the interests of both women and men,” noted Mabuza.

“We are taking into consideration the power and influence of opinion that the media has in society. It is therefore important to formulate policies that can bring about gender equality in and through the media,” Mabuza underscored.

Media houses that are part of the COE process include Times of Swaziland, Swazi TV and Voice of the Church (VOC). The Swaziland Broadcasting and Information Services (SBIS) and Swazi Observer are still undertaking internal consultations, Mabuza said.

Bennedict Bennett, the Gender Links Swaziland board member, acknowledged efforts made by the media in the coverage of gender issues. He highlighted that in the past, the media reported on gender equality in spasms. However, the media landscape has changed in terms of gender sensitive reporting. More and more gender progressive stories are given space on radio, television and in newspapers.

“It is important to appreciate and acknowledge what the media is doing now. We look forward, as Gender Links Swaziland to working with the media and engaging them further on gender-sensitive reporting,” Bennett added.

Zakhe Hlanze, the SADC Gender Protocol Barometer 2013 researcher said while gender violence is receiving extensive coverage, other gender equality issues have not been given due attention. She called on the media to adopt a more progressive approach in reporting gender violence and gender equality as a development issue.

This article is part of the GL News Service special coverage of the SADC Gender Protocol Summits underway across the region, offering fresh views on everyday news.

Source : Gender Links