‘Media women must demand recognition’

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As the world marked Press Freedom Day this week, media analysts noted with concern the marginalisation of women in the media and the negative portrayal of females in news stories.

Although women like renowned human rights lawyer, Beatrice Mtetwa, a seasoned defender of journalists rights, have managed to be noticed in the male-dominated legal profession, Zimbabwe is yet to witness very powerful women in the media field itself.

Last weekend the 44-member Sports Writers Association of Zimbabwe converged in Kwekwe to elect its national executive.

Not a single woman made it into that decision-making body.

Women’s Affairs, Gender and Community Development deputy minister Jessie Majome yesterday said lack of women’s voices in news stories was one of the big casualties and symptoms of lack of press freedom in this country.

“Press freedom is not just about quantity of media products, it is about quality whereby all facets of society are heard, including marginalised groups such as women,” said Majome.

“There is an unacceptable situation where women are not seen in the media and it means only the economically, politically and physically capacitated persons can jostle to be heard whilst everybody else is drowned. There is need to expand the base to ensure as many voices as possible are captured so that there is freedom of expression and women are visible. This would enhance quality of news,” Majome said.

She said in Zimbabwe there was a noticeable lack of female ownership and media editorship, as well as very few female journalists to write home about.

Media consultant Shepherd Mutamba said the level of career development and rise of female journalists was simply missing in Zimbabwe.

“News columns run by female journalists focusing on trivial issues like recipes and knitting is all there is at all these newspapers. But we need to develop the womenfolk into executive decision-making positions where they also determine the thrust and direction of news as a business,” said Mutamba.

“Other than Christina Taruvinga (ZBC) and Edna Machirori (Zimpapers and Financial Gazette), Peta Thornycroft (Parade Magazine) I don’t know of more women who rose to become editors or even deputy-editors. Only a handful women ran the smaller publications like Mahogany or the trade in-house magazines. Those who came anywhere near the executive positions only did so in acting capacities,” he said.

However, Mutamba said instead of mourning and groaning over discrimination, senior female journalists must leave the organisations where they were sidelined and seek funding to establish their own newspapers or magazines.

Voluntary Media Council of Zimbabwe executive secretary Takura Zhangazha said there could not be press freedom without taking into account gender equality.