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Gagged: Women’s Voices Continue To Be Silenced In The Media


Although there has been a steady increase in the number of women professionals over the past 20 years, most mainstream press coverage continues to rely on men as experts in the fields of business, politics and economics.

Women in the news are spoken about with language that has sexist connotations and is more likely to be featured in stories about accidents, natural disasters, or domestic violence than in stories about their professional abilities or expertise.

Inadequate women’s coverage seems to be a worldwide phenomenon. A 2015 report conducted by the Global Monitoring Media Project found that women only make up 24% “of the persons heard, read about or seen in newspaper, television and radio news, exactly as they did in 2010.”

Furthermore, women only make up 19% of experts featured in news stories and 37% of reporters telling stories globally.

Despite a wide array of activities that are currently underway to ensure women are on the frontline, forecasts in the media have not fully portrayed the role of women in protecting development gains.

Women’s empowerment is a pre-condition to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) which lie at the core of the 2030 Agenda and the news media are crucial influential actors to advance gender empowerment and equality.

A survey by the Media Monitors revealed that women’s voices made up just 24% of the voices in news reports in the baseline survey and dropped one point in the final report between February and April 2021.

“Women speak the most on social issues as compared to other categories although the numbers are still low at 30%. While the low number of women’s voices is a general trend, there are significant differences across provinces,” the report said.

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To this end, UN Women has been calling for a change in the continued projection of negative and degrading images of women in the international and national media.

Speaking on the sidelines of a media sensitization workshop in partnership with the Lower Guruve Development Association (LGDA), UN Women spokesperson Innocent Katsande noted that the media plays a pivotal role in amplifying women and girls’ issues, which are too often not given priority in various outlets.

He added that it is unfortunate that the media tend to perpetuate gender inequality using its influence.

“In all contexts, society is influenced by gender stereotypes that the media presents using various channels’, Katsande added. ‘Regardless of the progress made in response and addressing gender inequalities, there is still more that needs to be done to change the narrative.”

To this end, the UN Women emphasized the need for social behaviour change communication strategy by media practitioners to demystify harmful religious and cultural practices that perpetuate gender inequalities

“Empowerment of women requires a holistic approach in terms of all stakeholders coming on board. There is a call for women spokespeople, rights organizations to continue stepping up and being bold on speaking on behalf of other women,” Katsande said.

He further stated that women tend to shy away from the media because of a lack of trust between them and the media personnel.

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“They do not know what will come after speaking and some lack training and the exposure to deal with the media,” he added.

A gender equality and media regulation study in Zimbabwe by FOJO Media Institute says:“Transnational policies with gender and media provisions tend to remain at the level of generalities. There are inconsistencies between commitment to gender equality in national policies, and to gender equality in media policies and legislation.

“Widespread interest in general gender equality at national levels does not appear to filter into State media regulation to the same extent. Only a fraction of media organisations has in place gender equality, equal opportunities or gender diversity policies. There is the absence of a specific Gender Equality Act, the National Gender Policy of 2017, and it is the guiding document for implementation of gender equality commitments.”

Similarly, media criticism of women in politics is often based not on their positions or achievements, but on how well or poorly they fit expected gender roles.

What women are wearing is often given more attention than what they say.

Peter Glick, a sociology professor at Lawrence University, points out that “focusing on what women are wearing is one way of reinstating a gender hierarchy and a way of diminishing women’s capabilities.”

Black women often have to take extra measures to fit into the stereotypical image of a political woman as there is more pressure to “keep [their] hair a certain way.”

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Multi-award winning journalist/photojournalist with keen interests in politics, youth, child rights, women and development issues. Follow Lovejoy On Twitter @L_JayMut

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