By Billy Ntaote
The portrayal of women in the media across the African continent continues to expose a wide gender gap between woman and men amid ambitious continental benchmarks.
A paper on Media Portrayal of women and media gap in Africa presented to the African Union Specialized Technical Committee on Information and Communications (STC-IC 2) underway in Addis Ababa by Gender Links media coordinator Tarisai Nyamweda (pictured), highlights the wide gap and suggests solutions for the continent and its member states to consider.
Lesotho is not an exception to this gloomy picture portrayed across the African continent on the portrayal of women in the media.
Nyamweda notes there is little progress achieved across the continent amid the new African development strategy code named Agenda 2063.
Agenda 2063, in its Aspiration 6 talks about a vision for “An Africa whose development is people-driven, relying on the potential of African people, especially its women and youth, and caring for children”.
This Aspiration 6 further adds that all citizens of Africa will be actively involved in decision making in all aspects.
The aspiration points that by year 2063 “Africa shall be an inclusive continent where no child, woman or man will be left behind or excluded, on the basis of gender, political affiliation, religion, ethnic affiliation, locality, age or other factors. All the citizens of Africa will be actively involved in decision making in all aspects of development, including social, economic, political and environmental”.
Coming to the Southern African Development Community (SADC), where Lesotho is also a member state, a SADC Protocol on gender and development has been developed and member states are expected to frequently report on progress towards meeting its goals.
However Nyamweda points that there is much that the continent needs to do to achieve its ambition of empowering women and ending inequality.
Nyamweda points that while women represent more than half of the population in many African countries they are underrepresented or misrepresented throughout all existing media whether online or offline, news media or entertainment.
“Their voices are not heard, they are likely to be portrayed in a stereotypical manner and they are less likely to hold influential positions in the media and Information Communications Technology (ICT).
“The 2015 Global Media Monitoring Project notes that in Africa women’s relative presence in the news has increased from 19 percent in 2010 to merely 22 percent in 2015.
“Women continue to enjoy less access to ICTs and the violence that women face offline is extending to online spheres,” said Nyamweda.
She further notes with concern that despite the existing gaps countries in Africa continue to have weak or no specific gender provisions in media laws and policies.
Nyamweda notes that the eexclusion of women voices transcends borders and only recoded women voices in the media recorded at 24 percent globally and 22 percent in Africa.
She said the most popular and most covered news in Africa has the least women speaking on those topics so their voices are not always on the agenda.
She adds that there is narrow interpretation of which news women should feature and most women voices relegated to social news, entertainment and domestic violence.
However she notes currently there are increasing women numbers in the media industry and in decision making but men still dominate in the sector.
She said in the Sub-Saharan Africa only 28 percent are board members, 24 percent top and only 5 in senior management.
Nyamweda Recommended to the African states need to create research and analysis of gender in the African context as most of the research on gender and media used in Africa is borrowed from Europe.
“So governments need to urge research on gender and the media especially through public institutions of higher learning.
“Partnerships on this research to evaluate progresss and get remedies need to take place because most research is coming from civil soicety and departments of journalism,”said Nyamweda.
On media houses, Nyamweda said they need to set targets of the own in the lead up to 2030 in terms of voice, participation, decision making and in creating programmes stories about women.
She also recommends that governments must empower women and invest in women through public and community media to create content that is relevant to them in their own languages and that which will respond to their needs.
Nyamweda adds that gender must be mainstreamed in all publicly funded media training institutions and encourage private owned institutions to follow suit.
She also recommends that women participation can be increased through enforcement of quota mechanisms to allow them a chance into the Industry like mandatory licensing requirements for media houses and mechanisms to see this through.
On the other hand, Leslie Richer, the Director of information and communications at the African Union (AU) said the continent is working on a first ten year implementation plan of agenda 2063.
Richer also noted Agenda 2063 recognizes that for Africa to archive its full potential, the investment in any sector including communication and ICT must be holistic and inclusive, ensuring access by all member of society to technology and the knowledge economy.
Richer also notes that to ensure that Agenda 2063 aspirations 6 are archived “there is a dire need for a new gender strategy” which continent should consider adopting and member state must implement.