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Motivating scribes to close gender gap

IT took strong determination, commitment and relevant skills for the award winners at the 2018 Gender and News Summit to escalate gender sensitive and responsive reporting through their stories which emerged top among other finalists, recently.

Although much effort has been taken by governments, civil society organisations, Development Partners (DPs) and other actors, more still needs to be done to attain gender equality in the country.

For the first time in history, the awards took place last Saturday night at Hyatt Kilimanjaro Hotel in Dar es Salaam and saw nine journalists from the print, radio and television categories taking the top three positions among 15 entries in each.

The articles which were screened in the process ranged from science and technology, human trafficking, agriculture, sexual harassment, gender-based violence, leadership and land among others.

It involved a rigorous process implemented throughout the year from conducting media monitoring, training journalists, mentorship, screening process and finally the awards.

The second-runner up in the print category Lydia Shekighenda, a senior journalist with 'Daily News' said a three-day training organised by the UN Women in July, this year, ahead of the awards shaped the way she looks at gender stories.

Lydia was keen to note that among lessons learnt in the course of training is the perception on how gender stories are being reported, it matters a lot. It helped her redefine how she pitches her stories.

“The thinking that gender stories especially those which relates to women are negative is vague and many journalists have made it a custom.

In the course of the programme, I have come to learn that there is so much that journalists can report on especially things which can promote positive change and bring development to the country,” said Lydia.

She cited an example of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), by integrating them in the daily reportage as it will help boost the country’s implementation and impacts the nation economically, politically and socially.

Lydia establishes that besides getting the award, her knowledge in relation to gender issues has advanced enormously and intends to do her reportage differently.

First Prize winner in the Excellence in Goal Five: Television Journalism, Janeth Leonard who works with Tanzania Broadcasting Corporation (TBC) revealed that the task was never easy, but she endured all and finally emerged as the top winner in the category.

She described reportage on gender issues as still very low, the reasons being most journalists have not accorded gender issues especially women issues the weight it deserves.

Out of 115 entries which were submitted in the process among the 15 entries which made it through the screening process, Janeth managed to get three of her stories in the competition.

According to her, among the stories she did focused on violence, but the story which won was on the contribution of women in economic development of the country a case of Zanzibar’s women engaging in seaweed production.

“The idea came into mind after going about several achievements that there is ever been, it is always men who have been reported… I asked myself is it true that there are no women who are contributing to the development of the country at all?,” said Janeth.

For Janeth, the opportunity is just a fresh beginning as she feels obliged and a greater responsibility ahead of her to report more on women issues, especially on topics that encourage women achievement.

A senior journalist with HabariLeo Newspaper a sister paper to the 'Daily News', Evance Ng’ingo not only did his article enter the finals, but he dared to report issues challenging women unlike fellow counterparts who consider gender issues as stories related to women alone.

Evance says most journalists do not give attention to gender issues and even when they do, the stories are mainly event oriented and portrays a negative perception on women.

Although some journalists for many years have been reporting on gender, Evance claims that the reportage is being done hastily, it is not meant to give solutions to problems.

The senior journalist cites lack of relevant skills on gender sensitive reporting is among challenges hampering journalists. He called upon media houses to establish gender policies in newsrooms along with special desks to scale up the reportage on the area.

Again, the trainings by gender experts in media houses will contribute to gender sensitive reporting and increase more reportage on gender issues.

“Male journalists on the other hand should give priority to gender issues especially women issues as they are our mothers, sisters, wives and girlfriends we need to air out their voices, for we rely on each other,” noted Evance.

Other winners in the print category include first prize winner Godfrey Ismaely (Majira) and the first runner up Alex Kachelewa (Tumaini Letu).

For Television category the third and second prize was obtained by Hilda Foya a college student from University of Dar es Salam, School of Journalism and Mass Communications. Najjat Omar (first prize winner) and second winner

Adam Hhando from CG Fm in Tabora and the third winner Alex Mchomvu from Radio Kwizera. With more than twenty years after the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action by governments, Tanzania is still far away from balanced representation of women and their portrayal in the media. The Beijing platform had required governments, the private sector, financial institutions, donors and civil society to advance 50 strategic objectives covering 12 “critical areas of concern”, including poverty, health, education, violence, armed conflict, the economy, power and decision-making, the environment, the media, and women’s rights institutions. Addressing the award ceremony, the Director of Information Services, Dr Hassan Abbas observed that the Beijing Declaration requires the government to ensure that issues pertaining to gender are mainstreamed in all sectors when planning for the country’s development. Dr Abbas also revealed that findings of a pilot study presented on February before the summit, identified very few women in media leadership positions and even particularly fewer are cited as sources. “Much has been done in Africa particularly in Tanzania to make regional and institutional reforms to ensure that gender is becoming part of development. On the other hand, media carries a very critical role to ensure that gender issues are part of development,” said Dr Abbas. According to him, it was revealed in an earlier survey that only 22 per cent of the content covered in various media relates to gender issues, but lately the situation is improving. Besides playing its watchdog role, the Chief Government Spokesperson called upon the media to partner in ensuring that gender issues are considered. “Again, the media has to go beyond their watchdog role to advocate change and in cases where the government and private sectors have delivered these changes, they should applaud them,” he noted. The Country Representative of UN Women, Ms Hodan Addou said the work presented by journalists demonstrated hard work and true quality after a yearlong of media monitoring, training and mentoring. “The stories presented are captivating and empowering and have revealed gender responsive reporting,” said Ms Addou while extending recognition to Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the Governments of Finland and Sweden for their support to host the programme. Delivering findings of the journalistic works, the Chief Executive Officer of Gender Links, Ms Colleen Lowe-Morna noted that over 30 journalists participated from 15 media houses in the training which was conducted earlier. She pointed out that the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation then supported the journalists with a small grant to go and do meaningful reporting. “Out of 115 entries in each category from print, radio and television the numbers were cut down to groups of 15 from each category. The selected entries 49 percent came from men and 51 percent female, it there for shows a balance The reporters had to specify which part of SDG five their stories were coming from; the findings showed that it real covered a high area. The coverage was of extremely high quality,” Ms Lowe-Morna revealed. The CEO pointed out that the stories were reported from Arusha, Dar es Salaam, Inyonga, Kigoma, Lindi, Mtwara, Morogoro, Singida and Zanzibar among other places. A veteran journalist, Ms Rose Haji Mwalimu, who was representing judges from the radio category observed that the entries we of very high quality, useful pieces. She said the merits were judged against 11 categories on how sources are treated with dignity and respect, programmes challenging gender stereotypes and embraces diversity, while prompting to gender awareness through public debate. Among other criteria include integrating SDG’s into story reporting and use of data to validate the stories. Journalist went around exposing hidden issues compared to other topics in the past, gender story of changing narratives which outshined the business as usual,” she said. Nine journalists three from each category including print, radio and television received the awards.

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Author: MAUREEN ODUNGA

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