By Harriet Anena
The media in Uganda still depicts women with negative stereotypes and excludes their voices from news and programmes.
This emerged during the launch of a manual for gender-sensitive journalism at Protea Hotel in Kampala on 8 May 2015.
Dr Patricia Litho, the lead author of the manual, noted that the negative portrayal of women by the media has become an issue globally.
Dr Litho, a lecturer at the Makerere University Department of Communication and Journalism, together with media consultants Joachim Buwembo and David Sseppuuya, prepared the manual with support from the International Labour Organisation, the UK Department for International Development and UN Women. It is to serve as a reference for journalism practice and training.
The manual titled The Media on Gender-Sensitive Journalism was developed after a 2012 study of the New Vision and Bukedde newspapers, which showed that “women’s voices were hardly visible in stories on politics, economics, energy, and sports – areas considered male domain”.
“Instead, they [women] were more visible in stories on gender-based violence, child issues, health, beauty, and lifestyle which are, in turn, considered female domains,” the study added.
Dr Litho added that the 2012 report indicated that the media often portrays women merely as sex objects, victims of violence and of disasters.
“Women’s views were rarely solicited and when solicited, women were portrayed as average citizens. Rarely did we see women viewed as expert sources,” she said.
According to research by Global Media Monitoring Project conducted in 100 countries, 46 per cent of news in print, radio and TV uphold gender stereotypes, with only 6 per cent highlighting gender equality.
The research, titled Who Makes the News, states that the world as reported through the media is mostly male. Media in the Middle East and Africa are in first and second place respectively in regards to gender stereotypes in reporting.
Additionally, a 2011 study titled Women in the media: An Analysis of news makers and news subjects in the print media in Kenya and Uganda shows that both the Daily Monitor and the New Vision papers had only 16 per cent of their stories with women’s voices. Additionally, an analysis of selected newspapers in both Uganda and Kenya shows that the “print media is still dominated by men, both as news makers and news subjects”.
Speaking at the launch of a training manual, Minister of State for Gender Lukia Nakadama wondered why the media continues to report negatively about women, adding that it’s only through responsible journalism that a holistic turnaround of the country can be achieved.
“If the media continues to stereotype women through their coverage; it can contribute to the perpetuation of unfair positioning of women in society,” Ms Nakadama said
Vision Group Editor-in-Chief Barbara Kaija, who made a presentation on how the publication piloted training on gender-sensitive journalism, noted that the study and the resultant training manual has been an eye opener.
“As a media house, we were groping in the dark in as far as gender issues were concerned,” she said.
Mrs Kaija said between September 2014 and March 2015, at least 307 Vision Group journalists, out of about 800 freelance and staff reporters, were trained on gender-sensitive reporting and the positive impact is already being registered.
Mr Alexio Musindo, the Director ILO for East Africa, in a statement read for him by Mr Guebray Berhane noted that in the media, women still lag behind in terms of reaching top positions despite being prominent at news desks across the world.
“Only few women journalists are able to reach decision making points,” he said.
According to the International Women’s Media Foundation, “men still occupy 73 per cent of top media management positions”, as shown in a study of 522 news media organizations around the world.
To change the negative portrayal of women in and by the media, Ms Margaret Sentamu of Uganda Media Women Association, said more research needs to be done on media and gender, while journalism training institutions should establish gender-sensitive units and curriculum.
“Media houses should be helped to design gender-sensitive policies at the workplaces and these policies should impact on recruitment, orientation, content, advertising and music,” Ms Sentamu added.
On the other hand, Ms Catherine Kanabahita, the Director, Makerere University Gender Mainstreaming Directorate, said the media should not shy away from saying the truth under the guise of being gender-sensitive.
She made a reference to the stripping nude by Apaa women in Amuru District as they protested against a land demarcation exercise in their area. Ms Kanabahita said although it’s true the media portrays women as sex objects, such incidents of societal concern deserve to be reported as they are.
“Gender mainstreaming challenges the status quo, it makes people uncomfortable, it rocks the boat,” she said, but added there is need for all stakeholders to “insist and remain around the table”.
The United Nations Resident Coordinator, Ms Ahuuna Eziakonwa, in a message read for her by Esperance Fundira, said the media needs to have a particular priority because they have an enormous impact on society.
“The time is now for the media to make the future where gender equality is a reality on the screen, on radio, in newspapers, including in social media,” Ms Ahuuna said.
Mr Bernard Tabaire, the Director of Programmes at ACME, challenged journalists to think about how they will cover female political candidates as the country heads towards the general elections in 2016.
A study done by the Vision Group shows that 98 per cent of presidential election coverage was accorded to male candidates while only 1.8% went to the female candidate Betty Olive Kamya.