Most studies appear to indicate that there is little space and air time allocated to women’s issues. This simply asserts that the media have failed to give recognition to women’s contribution and concerns and reference to stories on women as not being news worthy and cannot, therefore, sell the newspapers and their newsrooms. The latter and all the above, is a crisp indication of media’s urgent need for unlearning such stereotypical representation and reporting on women and women’s issues.
This state of affairs, being an exact replica of media in Uganda, pulsed ACFODE to train media practitioners on gender sensitive reporting with a special bias on reporting on women’s participation in politics, leadership and gender equality.
On 16th March, 2018, what seemed like a never going to come day, finally dawned. By 7:00 am, at Metropole Hotel-Kampala, all was set for the long anticipated media training of; senior reporters, editors, producers, creative directors, photo journalists as well as documentarians.
Speaking at the event, Ms Sandra Nassali, the Technical Advisor of the Public Relations and Communications Department at ACFODE, who also doubled as the moderator for the day, pointed out that the portray of women by media is usually sexist, passive, limited in terms of coverage in addition to the inequalities that women face within the media houses where they operate. These, she said, were issues that required redress for a better society.
The moderator,Ms Sandra Nassali, gives her opening remarks.
“This activity follows a series of activities that we have implemented under the project: ‘Enhancing public awareness and support for women’s political participation and gender equality in five districts of Uganda.’ The districts include: Kamuli, Pallisa, Moroto, Gulu and Kampala. Some of the already on the go interventions include the Fasi Fasi show on women’s leadership and gender equality which airs every Thursday on NBS television,” she said.
Nassali, added that the project was made possible with the kind support of UN Women Uganda and with the technical advice of Konrad Adenauer Stiftung –KAS.
The training aimed at enabling journalists to understand and appreciate gender equality, as well as women’s rights to political participation and leadership. In the same regard, ACFODE hoped to equip the participants with skills, knowledge and information necessary for them to mobilize and educate the public on the value of women’s right to political participation and leadership while urging them to use their media outlets to promote improved visibility and positive portrayal of women in politics and leadership as well as contribute to the transformation of negative cultural perceptions, which deter women from participating in politics-including violence against women in politics.
Teacher, journalist and former East African Legislative Assembly-(EALA) member of parliament and first Executive Director of the Uganda Women’s network, Honorable Sheila Kawamara Mishambi rallied journalists to break through the stereotypes that society has clothed around the female sex. “Gender is learned sex related behavior and attitudes which include the roles, responsibilities, opportunities, privileges, attributes and statuses accorded to women and men,” she said.
Hon.Sheila Kawamara Mishambi, speaking to journalists during the training.
She added that often times, media will report on a woman in politics with prejudices of her gender to include issues like her husband, her home as well as her children, subjects which referred to as not relevant to a woman’s political career.
“Sometimes you will see the media describing a high profile woman as either ‘bummy xxxxx’ or ‘fatties said this and this..,’ ” Kawamara expounded.
Other offensive language pointed out during the discussion included; “bottom-heavy figure’’, “curvaceous”, “cleavage on display”, ‘chubby”, “skinny” etcetera, in addition to branding some as ‘kyakula sajja,’ (to mean; she behaves like a man) ‘iron lady’ and ‘nalukalala’- when referring to a woman’s assertiveness.
She implored media practitioners to adopt gender neutral language such as; Person or individual for man, First-year student for freshman, People or humanity for mankind, Synthetic or machine-made for man-made, Average (ordinary) person for common man, to operate or to staff rather than ‘to man’ Chairperson or Chair in place and lastly, police officer as opposed to police man.
Speaking at the same event, the Executive Director of the Women’s Democracy Network-WDN, Ms Perry Aritua, asked the journalists to explain what informed the way they report on women in politics.
The ED-Women’s Democracy Network,Ms Perry Aritua, speaking to the journalists during the training.
KFM reporter, Stephen Mbidde, cited availability of respondents as key for media reporters, adding that in most cases, women politicians are not readily available for the interviews. This was backed by another participant who said that female politicians in most cases refer the journalists to their male counterparts who are always willing to answer their questions.
Mr Stephen Mbidde , from Kampala FM, giving his views during the plenary session.
Another participant observed that the women politicians have done nothing to push for fellow women’s needs in the parliament.
Responding to the feedback, Aritua, mentioned that understanding why women’s participation in politics matters would be the only road way to objective reporting. She said that more than half of Uganda’s population are women and that these have different issues, angles of viewing things as well as different leadership.
A participant gives his views during the plenary session.
Ms Aritua added that while women are so different from men and their needs diverse, women members of parliament don’t have a special mandate or role in parliament adding that it is the media’s role to make sure women’s voices are heard even when some are not used to the camera.
“What facilities and or mechanisms have you put in place to make sure that women politicians for instance, can make it for the interviews?” she probed.
Confirming the same, Joachim Buwembo, a media consultant, said that journalists do themselves a disfavor when they fail to report on women’s issues.
“When you report with your gender lens on you’re not doing women a favor, you are doing yourself a favor to be a better journalist,” said Buwembo.
Joachim Buwembo takes participants through making a checklist for balanced reporting.
Buwembo, a former editor of the Sunday vision, also said that gender sensitive reporting is about doing good journalism and that good journalism is good business.
“Can you say that ‘I am going to do a chapatti-Rolex business, and I am only selling to men?’ If you did so, you would be doing bad business,” Buwembo added.
Buwembo added that women are the real force shaking and shaping power and as such deserve fair coverage.
UMCAT Lecturer and senior journalist, Ms Aisha Ahmed,sharing her group’s checklist
In a written message, the UN Women country director, Ms Mutavati Anna; said that the UN realizes that the struggle against gender inequality in all spheres can only be won when men are enlisted for their support of women’s rights, adding that the media had a role to play by making men aware of their biases and stereotypes.
Mr Martin gives concluding remarks on behalf of UN Country director, Ms Anna Mutavati.
“The time is now for media to lead us to this future-where we have no gender bias on screen, on radio and newspaper including social media,” said Mutavati.
Journalists were encouraged to take deliberate interest in covering women’s stories objectively and widely thenceforth so as to make smooth progress to the realization of sustainable development goal five that lobbies for women’s empowerment and gender equality.