OPINION: Media and civil society need to have synergy

OPINION: Media and civil society need to have synergy

By Maria Wanza

Journalists have been urged to use gender disaggregated data as they write, publish or broadcast stories on women and girls empowerment and gender equality.

During a workshop for journalists and civil society organizations, members sought to find middle ground when engaging with each other.

“It is time to increase access to and utilization of gender data and simplified statistics that reveal realities of women and girls; tell exactly who is left behind and who is likely to be negatively affected by discrimination and exclusion. It is time to increasingly connect gender data with advocacy and decision making, thus helping policy makers increase investments towards women and girls priority needs, especially when planning, budgeting or responding to emergencies,” said Hellen Apila the Regional Coordinator for Equal Measures 2030 Africa.

She was speaking during the Deliver For Good Advocacy Campaign workshop, a global advocacy and communications initiative that was launched at Women Deliver Conference in Copenhagen, Denmark five years ago.

The campaign seeks to empower women and girls in five priority thematic areas in order to achieve gender equality and drive progress in the country as outlined in the commitments under the SDGs by 2030.

“Kenya was identified as one of the first countries of focus in Africa for the Deliver for Good campaign after being nominated alongside India and Senegal as the pathfinder countries for the initiative. The campaign was launched in Kenya in November 2018 and since then it has convened by CSO Advisory partners and allies both in counties and at national levels,” Ms. Apila explained.

The priority areas for Kenya were identified as establishing equal land rights; increasing political participation for women; improving Universal Health Coverage (UHC); access to sexual and reproductive health; economics empowerment and ending Gender Based Violence (GBV) as well as other vices.

“There is an urgency to achieve the gender targets under these thematic areas because of the vision 2030 deadline. We have just nine years left to accomplish these commitments, hence the need for multi-stakeholders to collaborate with the media to increase visibility of these commitments, raise awareness of the need to increase investments in these areas and hold duty bearers accounted to deliver on these promises to women and girls by 2030,” Ms. Apila said.

During the workshop, women leaders and gender rights advocates from various counties intimated that they often shy away from media.

“This is common especially when it comes to women in political leadership. We have to be very careful about what we say in front of the media and even then, it is most often still misreported,” said Ms. Pamela Odhiambo (MCA for Manyatta “B” Ward in Kisumu County).

She added that there is great demand to have women as reliable sources of news, especially as the 2022 general elections in Kenya draws near.

“Many times the media assumes and never asks the ‘why’ question in news stories? The ‘why’ helps you not to just do surface reporting,” said Mildred Ngesa, a communications consultant and media trainer.

She added: “Women are objectified everywhere even in the global north news. The deeper ‘whys’ of the story are never covered.”

She cited the mocking caricature that was published in Wprosta, a Polish conservative weekly where Chancellor Angel Merkel was depicted breastfeeding two political leaders from Poland.

She also gave an example of when Governor Charity Ngilu’s legs were subject of discussion instead of her leadership capacity when she vied for Presidency.

Ms. Ngesa urged the media and CSOs to work together saying: “The work we both do is about life and death. We have to treat it with seriousness and learn to work together.”

One participant wondered why stories of people living with HIV/AIDS and needing to be prioritized for the COVID19 vaccine do not get front coverage.

“People with HIV/AIDS are now fighting two viruses: that of HIV and that of COVID-19. Yet no one highlights this issue in the media. Other stories that are not life and death take prominence,” she said.

During the forum, members of civil society were urged to learn how the media works to ensure that stories are framed right.

“Make the work of media easy by learning to understand the prominence of data and the ‘who’ in the story. The story has a bigger impact when it highlights numbers and the ‘who’ helps your story get prominence,” added Marceline Nyambala, Executive Director of the Association of Media Women in Kenya (AMWIK).

Dorothy Chebet (Media Liaison for Deliver for Good-Kenya) however criticized the media for not prioritizing positive stories about women.

“Those on the gender desks need the CSOs who to help them understand where to get correct information for their stories on women. Women need to be clear on messages when advocating for their rights,” she said.

“Stop painting women as victims all the time. Also give prominence to women who are doing positive things in their communities is a game changer,” she added.

Maria Wanza is an actress and communications consultant who writes on gender equality and women empowerment. She is also a member of Association of Media Women in Kenya (AMWIK) as well as The African Women’s Development and Communications Network (FEMNET)

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