By Byron Mutingwende
A plethora of challenges continues to hinder the efforts aimed at enhancing the fair and balanced portrayal of women in the media, a development that calls for introspection and new strategies among the practitioners.
Speaking during a Candid Talk platform organized by Federation of African Media Women Zimbabwe (FAMWZ) at the Quill Club, Simbiso Marimbe, a gender consultant said there was need to address challenges hindering balanced and fair portrayal of women in the media.
“First and foremost patriarchy in socio-economic, political and religious spheres of life is a challenge that media practitioners grapple with in their work and such constructs often lead to unbalanced portrayal of men and women.
“The lack of leadership and commitment on implementing gender protocols and rules, lack of skills and conceptual clarity on the subject, lack of zeal to exploit the potential of women to develop themselves and lack of dialogue or communication around gender issues are some of the obstacles hindering a fair and balanced portrayal of women in the media,” Marimbe said.
Despite the challenges, Marimbe acknowledged that there are policy frameworks that promote gender equality and equity.
These include the new constitution which provides for the establishment of a gender commission, advocates for an increase for representation of women in Parliament and gives full citizen rights to women and girls.
The Global Media Monitoring Project (GMMP) established in 1995 notes that there still remain huge gender gaps in newsrooms and editorial content. In 2005 it was found that a paltry 17% of news subjects were women and in 2010 they had risen to 24% signaling the fact that gender parity still remains a distant achievement.
The GMMP further portrays women’s portrayal in the media as victims compared to that of men which stood at 8%, and the statistics were equally bad cutting across the spheres of politics and news sources.
The 2012 Media Monitoring Project Zimbabwe’s media voice distribution analysis shows women at 14% while men enjoyed the lion’s share of 76% and in a few cases that the women were given voices, their portrayal was in relation to their marital status, age and political relationships with men.
Tendai Garwe from the Women’s Trust said the family, state, religion and culture anchored patriarchy by pushing for male supremacy and socializing the media practitioners to follow the status quo as evidenced when journalists trivialize women comments by a description of their dressing and mannerisms.
She added that ordinary women politicians were denied visibility in the media and that there was need to shun the tendency of giving ample coverage to a few prominent women and ignoring the rest.