A COMMUNIQUE ISSUED AT THE END OF THE THREE DAY EXCHANGE VISIT BETWEEN THE ASSOCIATION OF MEDIA WOMEN IN KENYA AND THE REGIONAL NETWORK OF MEDIA WOMEN IN THE GREAT LAKES REGION. 12-14TH MARCH 2014, NAIROBI, KENYA.
The Media Women Associations comprising, the Association of Media Women in Kenya (AMWIK), Association des Femmes Professionnelles de la Communication (AFPC), Association des Femmes Journalistes du Burundi (AFJO), Groupe des Journalistes pour la Paix (GJP), Union Congolaise des Femmes Journalistes (UCOFEM), Association Rwandaise des Femmes des Medias (ARFEM), in partnership with Search for Common Ground (SFCG), came together to exchange around barriers, opportunities and emerging issues in relation to women’s inclusion in the media.
We acknowledge the advances that the media industry has made across East Africa and the Great Lakes Region over the last 20 years. We note the expansion in media freedom and space in various countries in the region, which has seen diverse media outlets and institutions grow.
We also acknowledge key strides made by various media houses in the region to enhance the participation of women in media, increasing the percentage of women as reporters and editors in all of the countries participating in the exchange visit. We also note the mind shift that the media is gradually adopting to move away from reporting on women as victims of circumstances and sexual objects, and moving towards portraying women as key actors in socio, political and economic development.
However we note with concern that some common barriers have continued to hinder women from participation in the Kenyan and Great Lakes media as follows:-
- Representation of women within media houses
- Editorial positions are still male dominated, and women journalists experience challenges in promotion and participation in managerial level. The few women in editorial positions are in features and magazines.
- Cultural stereotypes continue to influence gender roles in the media, with women journalists assigned to duties and stories that reflect on traditional gender roles such as fashion, cookery, relationships, and other topics that relate to the traditional roles assigned to women.
- Poor retention and high turnover
- Women journalists exit media institutions due to unfavorable working conditions such as male chauvinism, low salaries and unstable contracts, sexual harassment and inflexible working patterns that affect their family lives and responsibilities.
- Young women who aspire to embrace the journalism career are discouraged by a lack of self-confidence and by negative stereotypes of women journalists within their communities.
- Media Digitization
- Although the advent of digital technologies provide quality and efficient means of communication and opportunities for growth, women’s access to media is reduced due to the charges that relate to the digitization process. The poverty index of women in our countries is significantly higher than men; hence women face challenges in accessing the services.
- The exorbitant fees and costs in the acquisition of media space and signal deter women entrepreneurs and media women from benefiting from the new technologies.
- Digitization presents an opportunity for media women associations to influence content development and packaging of programmes that can be consumed by women through the numerous signals.
- Low coverage of women by the media
- Media prioritization of news sources has a direct co-relation with the low coverage of women. Journalists are trained to cover the most ‘important people’ as a priority. The perception of important people in society is highly influenced by our cultural perceptions of community and political leaders who are often men. Therefore men remain the main sources of news in the region.
- Because of cultural orientation, women do not view themselves as community spokespersons and as such, women remain shy in using and working with the media.
- Lack of skills on the effective use of media makes women and their achievements invisible to the world.
We therefore call upon Women Media Associations in the region to:
- Engage in lobbying and advocacy with media institutions to ensure women are not disadvantaged in career progression.
- Challenge media institutions to respect the international and domestic laws that promote gender equality.
- Engage with the various media houses and institutions in their countries, to promote gender responsive reporting to promote change in cultural gender biases in our societies, including through a change in the perception of gender as an inclusive concept.
- To strengthen and initiate training programs that enhance knowledge and skills among women professionals in the media in order to enhance the chances of career development.
- Establish desks within Media Women Associations that provide information and support to address the violation of the rights of women journalists and in particular sexual harassment.
- Strengthen links and exchanges between women media professionals and young students and/or aspiring journalists to provide them with the necessary support and guidance.
- Engage with the relevant institutions in addressing the digitization process in order to cushion women from the adverse effects of the digitization process.
- Harness the power of the digitization process through active participation as entrepreneurs or content developers for the new technologies to promote the gender equality agenda.
- Strengthen the Regional Network of Media Women in the Great Lakes through increased joint activities and the expansion of the network to new media women associations’ members, including AMWIK.
Dated: 14 March 2014