INTERNATIONAL WOMEN’S DAY
MARCH 8, 2014
continue to see women as subordinate to them. One can argue that gender biases and genderbased discriminations have resulted in stereotyped attitudes, discriminatory treatment in assignments and promotions, traditional gender hierarchies, including premium on family responsibilities, and lack of support mechanisms for working women. As gender issues are not seen as important or profitable, women face difficulties in entering the decision making positions in the media.
Women continue to rank poorly in the media despite the fact that media plays an important role in influencing agenda, as well as changing attitudes and opinions of people all over the world. Picture: FILE
Can women set their own agenda in the media? By Joy Masheti
t is against the backdrop of this year’s International Women’s Day theme ‘Inspiring Change’, that we recognise the important role the media plays in influencing agenda, as well as changing attitudes and opinions of people all over the world.
Media plays an important role in structuring of society as they influence debate and set agenda on critical issues. For any segment of society to develop, visibility through the media is critical. The Nairobi Forward Looking Strategies (NFLS) and the Beijing Platform for Action (BPFA), for instance give recognition to the fundamental role played by the media as a tool for achieving women’s rights and gender equality. They further recognise media as tools for providing critical information to women, addressing their rights, as well as changing people’s perceptions in regard to women’s involvement in social processes. As we mark the International Women’s Day, the question that begs our attention is whether women have a place in the media. In a comparative study, the Global Media Monitoring project found out that only 24 per cent of the people interviewed, seen, or read about in the mainstream broadcast and print news in 2010 were women. Moreover, only 15 per cent of the stories that appeared that year focused specifically on women, and only six per cent focused on issues of gender equality or inequality. Another study conducted by The Guardian in 2011, revealed that in a typical month, 78 per cent of newspaper articles are written by men, 72 per cent of question time contributors are men and 80 per cent of reporters and guests on radio Four programme are men. The same research found out that among the so called quality press, the Financial Times had the biggest proportion (34 per cent) of women writers appearing on its front pages. Men by-liners were prevalent at the Telegraph (89 per cent), Sun (86 per cent), and the Times (82 per cent). The Guardian had a 78 per cent male skew. In the same research, of the 668 people named
in the lead articles, 84 per cent of those quoted or mentioned were men, most being quoted in their professional capacity. This compared with just 16 per cent women, who were disproportionately likely to be quoted as victims and celebrities. Where powerful women were featured, the images were often unflattering. Other researchers have revealed that when media reports on women’s issues, including abortion and birth control, men are quoted around five times more than women. An analysis of the Nigerian media also revealed that women are largely seen and not heard. Their faces adorn newspapers. However, on important national issues, they fade out. Even when the news is about them, the story only gains prominence if there is a man authority figure on the scene.
Study Closer home, a research conducted by a Master of Arts student at the Institute of Anthropology, Gender and African Studies of the University of Nairobi titled Representation of Women in the Star and the Reject Newspapers, revealed that the representation of women in the media has not improved. The study was carried out on editions published between December 2012 and February 2013. One hundred main news stories were sampled. It explored the representation of women in the two papers with a focus on image and news subjects. The research revealed that stories on politics and governance were given more prominence in both papers and formed 36 per cent of the stories covered in the research. These stories were largely written by men for women only contributed 13.8 per cent of stories in this category, which showed that politics do not attract the interest of many women reporters. It was revealed that women contributed less than one third of the stories in all the categories. It however, clearly emerged that women were most interested with peace and security and contributed 57.14 per cent of stories in this category. This could be because women form the bulk of victims during insecurity. Most of the stories on peace and security were in the context of the General Election. They were
on the different initiatives put in place to ensure security during the campaigns and elections and that there was no gender-based electoral violence. This could explain why many women reporters were drawn to contribute stories in the category. However, it should be noted that none of the stories in this category formed the headlines or appeared on the front pages of either of the newspapers. In political stories, men were given more prominence. Women did not appear and when they did they were seen and not heard. For instance, in a story titled presidential aspirants intensify their campaigns, the itinerary of all the presidential candidates and their running mates were given, apart from that of the female presidential aspirant. Women news subjects comprised a paltry 23.93 per cent, which is below the global average that is 24 per cent.
Stereotype The research revealed that the media continues to perpetuate the stereotyped images of women. The stereotyped roles of mother, care givers and wife came out prominently in the images of women in the stories under review. Women were also presented as victims of domestic violence, assault, rape and electoral violence. There is invisibility of women across all news platforms as there are very few news stories with women as the central focus. In most of the news women function as providers of personal accounts, and rarely as knowledgeable experts. Expert opinion is overwhelmingly male. Women are quoted as spokespersons of organisations, experts or main news subjects only a few times, and even so, they are allocated very little print space — either a tiny paragraph or as little as two lines, while men are quoted for the most part of the story. Various reasons have been given for the underrepresentation of women in the media. This is both in the news and in media houses. Some argue that the underrepresentation of women in the media is due to patriarchy, where men
It has been argued that media policies against sexist and stereotyped coverage, representation and portrayal of women remain a big gap. Existing media codes and guidelines are mainly concerned with ‘lewd’, ‘obscene’, ‘indecent’ exposure of human bodies, ‘immoral’ sexual relations, sexually provocative materials and pornographic content. There have been some efforts to establish and maintain self-regulatory mechanisms on media content. Governments in general take the responsibility for regulation of media industries with regards to gender stereotyping. Action is left to voluntary measures on the part of media enterprises or insufficiently effective national compliance/complaints authorities, who often lack monitoring capabilities and whose legal framework often lacks gender-equality policies. To this end, there is no practical monitoring of or enforcement of government requirements in countries and where standards exist, they are often not applied. A study carried in 1997 revealed that because of commercial considerations, when a gender issue is given prominence, it may have the effect of cheapening and sensationalizing serious issues, some involving gross human rights violations of a woman victim. Some think that it would be pretentious to expect wholesome active objective reports from the media because, for no other reason editorial coverage is largely influenced by a host of factors, foremost among which is commercial interests, clientele or readers’ and outright prejudices of its editors. It would seem from the outset that most gender-related activities do not, in the eyes of the mainstream media, constitute ‘hard’ news that sell. However, although in general women fail to make ‘commercially viable’ news, events sometimes make news out of women, but ignore the latter altogether by omitting the gender dimensions of such events. For instance, news stories on economic growth may be made without mentioning of the central role of women in the economy. Out of the one hundred stories reviewed in the Star and the Reject, only three were written from a gender aware perspective and were all from the Reject. The question is who sets agenda for the media? Is it the media managers or the public? Some have argued that women as the underrepresented and misrepresented gender should set the media agenda. Women setting the agenda means doing something newsworthy, something considered relevant and significant to the public at large, and in a manner that attracts media attention. In this regard it has been suggested that women need to learn to exploit media power by capitalizing on topical issues, employing simple and focused methods of presentation, as well as a consistent and non-flamboyant style. In other words women must learn to package their news as credible, persuasive as well as portray spontaneity. As we reflect on the International Women Day theme, media should set and inspire change as far as changing the images and representation of women. Gender issues are societal, media should take corrective measures that mainstream gender in their policies and practices. The media should change attitudes which depict women as stereotypes. Media should treat women issues as human issues and therefore give them adequate and qualitative coverage.
INTERNATIONAL WOMEN’S DAY
MARCH 8, 2014
The unrelenting quest for gender equality The historical journey of Kenyan Women towards leadership and fair representation has been steep and challenging. Below are excerpts from an interview with the chairperson of the National Gender and Equality Commission Winnie Lichuma by
Inadequate infrastructure, inadequate guidelines for policy implementation as well as prevalence of HIV/AIDS have prevented girls from accessing education.
Q: Two thirds gender rule still holds bigger prospects in addressing gender inequalities that have defined Kenya’s political landscape since independence. What are the implications of the Supreme Court ruling on the gender rule? What are three salient issues in the ruling? Do you think they will be achieved in 2015 as proposed by the courts? Is there a framework to ensure that it is realized by 2015?
Q: Briefly highlight the historical journey of Kenyan women towards leadership and fair representation in social- economic and political sphere? A: The historical journey of the Kenyan Women dates way back in the preindependent period and was largely premised on self-help groups. The landmark was the formation of Maendeleo ya Wanawake (MYWO) organization in 1952, which is still a powerful grassroots’ women’s organization across the country. In subsequent years, the Women’s movements in Kenya expanded and specifically focused on enhancing women’s participation in leadership, in appointive and elective bodies. This saw Grace Onyango elected as the first woman mayor in 1964 and the first woman MP in Kisumu in 1969. In 1974 Hon. Chelangat Mutai made her debut in politics as the first Kalenjin woman to be elected into Parliament at the age of 24. She vied for the Eldoret North parliamentary seat against 11 men and won. She served for one term until 1981, with significant difficulties due to opposition to the then political leadership. MYWO also emerged as a strong political force in the country during the 1980s and 1990s. Strong political parties like Kenya African National Union (KANU) recognised the power of organisation and used its power to mobilise women. The women who succeeded in political positions years after were mainly aided by the Maendeleo Ya Wanawake Organization. In 1992, the National Council of Women of Kenya and the African Women’s Development and Communication Network (FEMNET) organised a national women’s convention whose agenda was how to access political power. Twenty years after the convention saw an increase in women’s organizations and a strong women’s movement that focused on the struggle for an institutional framework for gender mainstreaming yielding to: a national gender commission; a Ministry in charge of women affairs, children and social services; a presidential directive for 30 percent representation of women in public service; establishment of the women’s fund, publication of the Sexual Offenses Act. In 1997, at the peak of Constitutional negotiations, there were only 3 percent women in parliament. This prompted Hon Phoebe Asiyo to table the first motion on affirmative action calling on Parliament
to increase women representation by 18, two from each province and two more from the Rift Valley. This however did not succeed. Hon Beth Mugo reintroduced the affirmative action bill in parliament in the year 2000. It was however recommended that the matter be referred to the Constitutional Review process that was about to commence.
A: The Supreme Court largely relied on High Court ruling in a case filed by FIDA challenging the composition of nominees to the Supreme Court. It said that Article 81(b) is aspirational and it presupposes open ended schemes of decision making and programming which can only be effected over a span of time.
In 1998, women negotiated their way into the various Constitutional review structures, from the grassroots to the national level. They got five slots out of the twelve in the drafting team that would draft the law to review the Constitution. At the National Constitutional Conference, women ensured that one out of the three delegates from the Districts was a woman. United efforts and capacity to effectively negotiate saw the birth of the Constitution of Kenya 2010, which has a lot of women gains.
Q: What is the status of the Kenyan Woman today? A: Despite the existing socio-economic barriers, culture and traditions, political culture, patriarchy and lack of resources among other factors, Kenyan women have made considerable strides in all spheres. More so after the promulgation of the Constitution of Kenya, 2010. In education, there have been considerable improvements with the introduction of Free Primary Education, especially in closing the gap in enrolment rates between girls and boys. However the completion rates are still a challenge for girls. At the political front; there are 0 percent women governors; 19 percent deputy governors; 6 percent elected members of the national assembly; 33 percent nominated members of the national assembly; 0 percent elected members of the senate; 90 percent nominated members of the senate; 6 percent elected members of the county assemblies; 81 percent nominated members of the county assemblies; 33 percent cabinet secretaries; 27 percent principle secretaries; 50 percent chairperson of independent offices, 42 percent chairpersons of Constitutional commissions; 6 percent parastatal heads; 13 percent county secretaries; 21 percent county assembly clerks. In terms of health, access to essential reproductive health services for women is still very limited especially in rural areas. The unmet need for family planning is high and unsafe abortion is a major problem predominantly for poor women and unmarried women leading
Winnie Lichuma, Chairperson of the National Gender and Equality Commission Picture: FILE to high maternal mortality, infections and infertility. Gender Based Violence: According to the 2003 Kenya Demographic and Health Survey, about half of Kenyan women have been victims of physical mistreatment/ abuse from the age of 15 years. 25 percent of them had experienced violence in the past 12 months. 26 percent of the women have encountered marital violence that involved emotional brutality. 40 percent have encountered physical abuse and 16 percent have experienced sexual violence within their marriage. On the legal front, access to justice for women and girls is undermined by the lack of an appropriate inter-phase between women and the judicial system. Scarcity of resources, ignorance of legal provisions, and corruption in public offices coupled with patriarchal attitudes and harmful cultural practices all contribute to the construct within which women and girls are expected to operate.
Q: In your view, what are some of the key achievements that have been realised in enhancing women’s participation in leadership in appointive and elective bodies? A: The not more than two thirds gender principle in appointive and elective positions has been implemented to a large extent, enabling a good number of women to get in positions of power like in the nominations of the county assembly members to ensure the principle is achieved. The affirmative action policy enabled
a considerable number of women into political positions.
Q: How are we doing as a country in putting in place legislations, policies and guidelines to operationalize provisions in the Constitution that advance gender equality and equity? A: Legislations that have been enacted in this regard include: Matrimonial Property Act 2013 Sexual Offenses Prohibition from Female Mutilation Act 2011
The National Gender and Development Policy 2011 The National Gender and Equality ommission Act 2011 The Convention on the Rights of the Child It is important to further note that the laws being enacted to implement the constitutional provisions on various aspects e.g. The Basic Education Act are factoring in gender parity in composition of bodies established therein which is a step in promoting the gender agenda
Q: What are the challenges and gaps? A: Persistent high level of poverty especially in urban slums and rural areas. Further, as the socio-cultural norms based patriarchy prevail, families opt for boys education when faced with
The Supreme Court however said that a framework to aid in the realization of the two thirds gender rule has to be created by August 2015 and can either be in the form of a legislation or call to amend the constitution. A technical committee has been established to come up with a framework on how the two thirds gender rule is to be realised. The technical committee will define timelines by which the two thirds gender principle is to be attained as they were not provided by the Supreme Court ruling. Another issue of concern lies in the fact that the Supreme Court saw challenges in the attainment of Article 27, based on the perceptions of an existing contradiction between Article 27 (6) and (7) and Articles 97 and 98. Issues have also arisen regarding the powers, privileges and facilitation of the affirmative action beneficiaries. Ideally, they should be similar to those of elected members and this requires deliberation.
Q: It has been argued that devolved governments provide a better platform to increase women participation in politics as well as addressing the needs, particularly of the marginalised women. Are we likely to see women issues receiving more attention with devolution? A: We have a third of women in the counties but are we setting agenda for them, do they know what their role is or have they joined the male’s club and want to see and act as men. The nominees have challenges in terms of understanding their legislative roles. Most of them do not have capacity but NGEC will soon release a small handbook on gender and inclusion at the county level guiding the counties on how they can work on inclusion in terms of employment and programmes.
Special issue of the Kenyan Woman newspaper for International Women's Day 2014