Africa, Headlines

CULTURE-TANZANIA: Media Still Treats Women as Sex Workers, Mothers, Wives

Ananilea Nkya

DAR ES SALAAM, Sep 1 2003 (IPS) - The lack of women’s voices and limited portrayal of their roles in the media may soon change if a new plan to correct those anomalies is implemented in Tanzania.

"If the two-year plan is fully implemented, on time, I am optimistic that a lot of positive changes will occur," says Rose Haji, director of the Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA) Tanzania Chapter.

Then plan, says Haji, will involve media watchdogs to monitor how both women and men make news to promote gender equality in, and through, the media.

The plan is a result of a two-day workshop held in Dar es Salaam, the commercial hub of Tanzania, at the weekend. It is based on the findings of Gender and Media Baseline Study (GMBS) conducted in Angola, Botswana, Lesotho, Malawi, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, Swaziland, Zambia, Zimbabwe and Tanzania in Sep. 2002.

The workshop drew participants from gender groups, media houses, government departments and law firms.

The GMBS is a joint initiative of MISA and Gender Links, both non-governmental organisations (NGOs) based in southern Africa. While MISA seeks to foster a free, independent and diverse media in the region, Gender Links promotes gender equality in and through the media.

"GMBS, the first such study in the Southern Africa, is the most comprehensive regional study," said Pat Made, Gender Links board member, who is also one of the editors of the study.

The study monitored 45,110 stories from the 12 southern Africa countries.

The Media Women’s Association (TAMWA) conducted the survey in Tanzania.

Presenting its findings, Pudenciana Temba, the project coordinator, said the survey, conducted between Sep 2 and Sep 29, 2002, targeted radio and TV stations (TVT, ITV, Radio Tanzania, Radio One) and newspapers (the African, the Guardian, the Daily News, Nipashe, Majira, Mtanzania and Kiu).

Temba said the findings show that women’s views and voices are grossly underrepresented in the Tanzania media. "With exclusion of unknown sources, women constitute only 16 percent of the news sources," she said. "This figure is close to the regional (southern Africa) average of 18 percent".

The survey found no significant differences between private and public media on how men and women are treated as news sources.

It also regrets that women still carry undesirable labels more than men. "They are identified more as wives, mothers and sisters than a man is likely to be identified," Temba said.

She said: "Eleven percent of women sources were labelled as such compared to three percent of men."

She said voices of women in decision making are also underrepresented. "While women comprise 22.5 percent of MPs (members of parliament), they constitute only 10 percent of those accessed in the political category," she said.

Temba noted that older women were more invisible in the media than their male counterparts. "Women’s voices were ahead in the 20-25 and 35-49 year age brackets, whereas men in the 50-60 year age bracket were more dominant in the news," she said.

She also noted that men’s voices dominated in most of the hard news category. "Women constitute less than 10 percent of the news source in the economics, politics and sports categories," she said.

Temba said the findings show that women in certain occupational categories are virtually silent. "Women featured more as sex workers (83 percent) and beauty contestants (77 percent)," she observed.

She, however, noted that women in Tanzania have made substantial gains in TV: 53 percent of reporters and 52 percent of presenters are women. The figures are higher than those in the entire southern Africa region, where 45 percent are in the presenter and 28 percent in the reporter category. "But it should be noted that women who constitute majority of presenters in the TV are in the 20-34 year age bracket," said Temba.

The results, say editors, have to do with market forces.

"In Tanzania, we have had women Members of Parliament (MPs) for years, but I have never seen a woman MP presenting a motion. Yet there are many issues affecting women which need to be raised in the house," said Jessey Kwayu, editor of Habari publication. "Unless women leaders become proactive on matters affecting their numbers, media will continue to under represent them."

Another editor, Lawrence Kilimwiko, said the biggest challenge facing Tanzania media as far as gender is concerned is that information is no longer regarded as service but as business. "If news is a commodity, then you have to sensationalise it," he said.

There is also the tendency in the newsroom to reinforce traditional values. "Let us re-define news values. If you re-define news value in Tanzania, and in Kenya they are using the traditional values then you cannot compete since Kenyans also sell (their) newspapers in Tanzania. What are you going to do?" wondered Kilimwiko.

Opening the workshop, deputy minister for Community Development, Gender and Children, Shamim Khan, urged media practitioners to look at how gender issues could be reflected in the new Tanzania Media policy. "I am told (the policy) will be released soon," she said.

Made said, "Let us begin to talk more consistently and look at editorial contents, what we put out every day because it is only if we address the matter that we can begin to get correct measures".

She said media role is not just to report to society but to challenge the society on things which have been wrong as well as to set agenda. "That means also that we need to do more news analysis and feature reporting that truly begin to inform the public and inform the people," she insisted.

Charles Kayoka, media and gender specialist at the University of Dar es Salaam said the findings of the study suggest that there is a lack of gender policy in the newsrooms. "If they had gender policy in terms of recruitment and news coverage it would remind editors to ensure not only they should have in their diaries stories which source both women and men but also assign women journalists to cover them," he said.

He blamed gender activists for ignoring the training of journalists. "What is reflected in the media is the failure of training . we need to train media personnel properly so that they transform society," he said.

Kayoka’s view was supported by Ayoub Rioba, a lecturer at the Institute of Mass Communication at the University of Dar es Salaam, who called on the "media personnel to be critical to editorial contents . and to see news differently".

Republish | | Print |