The need for a change in the reportage of women in the media has been reiterated especially with recent happenings where their private lives are usually put forward when serious matters of state are being discussed. ENE OSANG writes
Over the years, women have been the engendered species when issues such as politics, the economy, and corruption, including cultural, religious and social issues are being discussed.
Researches have shown that in many countries there is still great inequality between men and women in the positions they hold and in the ways they are represented. Women are often less visible in the news with many of their stories remaining untold. As soon as journalists look for an expert opinions women literally drop out of the picture.
The majority of the media are still portraying women in stereotypical roles such as home-makers, models or victims and this denies them their rights to be viewed as equal individual, even though media has the power and responsibility to challenge the stereotype.
The PAGED initiative
As disclosed by PAGED Initiative during the Media4Women workshop, only four per cent of all newspapers, radio and TV reports worldwide challenge gender stereotypes. Nigerian women in the news account for only 18 per cent, with female reporters at 25 per cent, European women in the news account for 25 per cent and female reporters 37 per cent.
Nigerian women such as Patricia Eteh and Diezani-Alison Madueke with strong political participation and presence have been sacrificed on this altar of stereotypes, as their gender was first used to pass judgements on them rather than the issues on ground – which is the norm with the men in politics.
Recently, the immediate past managing director of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), Joi Nunieh, aws in the news following the disagreement between her and the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Senator Godswill Akpabio, over issues bothering on misappropriation of funds in the Commission. Nunieh also accused the minister of harassing her sexually, yet the minister put forward her private life to denigrate her personality even when she has achieved a lot which did not make the front pages.
This and many other kinds of gender discrimination and abuse including other development issues affecting women in the society were the core of discussions at a two-day media capacity building workshop organised by PAGED Initiative – a media-focused non-governmental organization (NGO) under its Report Gender for Inclusive Development (RGID) project.
The workshop restated the role of the media in changing the narrative for women, as participants were urged against limiting themselves to always reporting women from a disadvantaged position, especially when they are doing a lot in other areas yet under reported.
In her address, the managing director of PAGED Initiative, Ummi Bukar, noted that women are always portrayed as a symbol of suffering, a symbol shown to be the dominant form of achievements for women.
She said, “A woman is seen to have achieved or done so much only when she is seen to have suffered immensely or is even to be suffering. So much so that the society does not see her to have done much if she is not in this position. The children and family at large will feel she is not caring or responsible enough if she have not slept hungry or forsake taking care of herself for the welfare of the family.
“This is not supposed to be, because there are women who have attained great heights in their respective careers though disadvantaged in a patriarchal system have put forward resilient, intelligence, hard work, a lot strive to attain and achieve in their respective fields. As such it is most unfair to stereotype them to certain quarters.”
Bukar emphasised the need for journalists to look out for development issues, especially as the affect women by doing human angle stories to give a detailed illustration of the plights of women so as to push policy makers and the government to work.
Women should not always be seen from a position of being victims, but also of strength. If gender is well mainstreamed by the media it will enable the society to view things from different perspectives.
“If Every time you listen to news and it is always about men from position of power but women from the suffering point it gives the impression that women cannot achieve anything but if women are well portrayed by the media it will go a long way in shaping the society.
“Journalists should do reports that will bring development. Reports should make citizens and relevant authorities see the issues and reasons there should be interventions and how development issues affect men and women, boys and girls differently.
“There are lots of development issues that are not reported in the media and most of these issues affect women and girls negatively. We undervalue the contributions of women and think that serious issues such as business, politics, is always about men and that is why we are working with journalists to make conscious effort to do inclusive reporting.”
It would be recalled that Earlier this year, the NGO carried out an advocacy tagged Media4Women campaign (M4W) with support from Free Press Unlimited with the aim to create an international movement of media organisations and individuals that highlight the importance of gender equality in and through the media.
“The campaign strives to establish a more inclusive and equal portrayal of women in the media.”
The workshop brought together over 20 journalists from different media organisations including TV, print, radio and online journalists as participants of the RGID project.
This reporter who is also one of the participants recounted her experience being a female journalist as well as a gender reporter over the years, saying the workshop has opened her eyes to more windows to look out for whenever she is doing her reports.
“I produce a weekly column titled, Women, but before now I never explored the human angle style of writing because I didn’t have much idea about that. I basically conducted interviews and did feature reports based on paper presentations from events I covered.
“After attending a couple of the RGID project workshops I now do human interest stories with focus on how development issues affect men and women differently and have also done several reports with inclusive development on my mind.
“I hope to do more reports that could challenge the authorities to work to make life more meaningful for all citizens, particularly women and girls in disadvantaged positions.”
Another participant, a reporter with TVC News, Godwin Agwam, said the workshop has been impactful as it taught him to always use the gender lenses to do his reports, adding that that will go a long way to mainstream gender in the media.
“Gender-mainstreaming means giving everyone one a voice. This means that both men and women should be heard when an issue is being reported. It is expected to conscientise people on the need to stop seeing a particular gender as the only qualified for a venture. It is expected to promote equity and equality between all genders.
“I have learnt to give everyone a voice irrespective of their gender. And ask probing questions why there are gender disparities in certain ventures with a view to striking a balance among both genders for inclusive development.
“I learnt so on the two days workshop organised by PAGED Initiative because I learnt that for a report to be balance their report there is need for gender- mainstreaming that is bringing male and female angles and I also learnt how to write a human angle story and also be part of the story,” said Esther Enna, a reporter and producer with Radio Nigeria Precious FM Lafia, Nasarawa state.
“Henceforth, my reports will be different. I will look forward to projecting women in my report because in most cases reporters hardly project women and I think there are many interesting stories about women which should be given priority in the media.
“I want to sincerely appreciate Paged Initiative for impacting more knowledge in me and changing my mindset on news writing. Gender-mainstreaming means observing and taking into account the inequalities between women and men at all times and in all areas.
“Now, I know that as a journalist I should always look out for specific actions i.e. measures targeted at a particular group and intended to eliminate and prevent discrimination or to offset disadvantages arising from existing attitudes, behaviours and structures sometimes referred to as positive discrimination.
PAGED workshop has broadened my knowledge on gender-mainstreaming and how to ensure that a human interest story should be inclusive for development purpose. I hope to produce more interesting stories when I get back to my station after the workshop.”
Also, a reporter with Kura Radio in Maidugiri, Habiba Garba Dandal Kura, noted that Reporting Gender for Inclusive Development is understanding that the construction and impact of the gendered production of media content is very important “considering the status of women in newsrooms, professional career opportunities, equal payment, eradication of sexual harassment, equity inclusiveness among other issues.”
She said, “PAGED workshop is an eye-opener to us as trainees, at the beginning of the workshop in Maiduguri, PAGED Initiative elaborated the term gender- mainstreaming which is basically change the narrative. Before the workshop, I had a different view and understanding of gender-mainstreaming, but now I can stand for myself and demand for my right and approve what I’m worth.
“In my reports, I do consider human interest angle stories which I believe hook audience to listen more and more regarding what I do differently in projecting women, I look at the issues which affect the most vulnerable in the society.
“PAGED training has helped me understand the broad meaning of gender inclusiveness which before I thought including women alone but later realized that gender inclusiveness has different dimensions likes including both men and women, children and disable and also doing my analysis, research and getting my numbers right when reporting a story.”
The RGID project is a partnership with Free Press Unlimited where participants gained knowledge on gender sensitive reporting, human interest reporting and reporting for Inclusive development.
RGID also built a relationship between more experienced journalists with younger Journalists called the mentor/mentee, where the mentors put them through writing gender responsive stories by guiding them through their reports.
Since the duration of the project, journalists have traveled to remote communities across the country particularly in the north where women and girls have suffered the effects of terrorism, poverty, unequal opportunity, gender based violence to bring out stories that will encourage and attract interventions to the communities who are most times disadvantaged.
Highpoint of the event was the award of certificates of participation to all the participants, including an award to the most outstanding Mentor and mentee.
This reporter who is one of the pioneer mentors was awarded the Most Impactful Mentor for always sparing time to go through reports by her mentees as well as others who like sharing their stories with her.