- Despite the growing number of women choosing a media career, very few are in decision-making positions, a situation the recently formed Botswana Media Women Association (BOMWA) aims to correct.
- In the leadership positions we have not reached 30 percent representation because media remains male-dominated at management levels, said Shollo Phetlhu, BOMWA chairperson and acting general manager of Botswana TV (BTV).
- The media sets the agenda and is the mirror through which the country looks at itself. We therefore feel that the role of the media in nation building cannot be complete without the active participation of women, she said.
Although Botswana has the highest proportion of women print media practitioners in Southern Africa - 41 percent compared to the regional average of 22 percent - women continue to complain about entrenched gender imbalances. Challenging the media, using its own codes and standards, is a strategy BOMWA intends to exploit.
- Our women need to be empowered in the area of training, to keep abreast of development, because media is dynamic. For example, BTV women no longer have to carry heavy equipment and can use small, portable and up-to-date cameras, commented Caroline Phiri-Lubwika, information officer at the Botswana chapter of the Media Institute Southern Africa (MISA).
- This helps to break down barriers for women wanting to take up challenging jobs, she added. Ms Phiri-Lubwika said giving women a voice through the national media was also vital.
- In every society women and children suffer the most, so it is very important to allow them to be able to air their grievances. A male-dominated management is unlikely to understand problems experienced by women, she explained.
A recently released Gender and Media Baseline Study conducted by MISA and Gender Links, a Southern African NGO promoting gender equality, examined a total of 25,110 news items produced during September 2002, and made some startling findings.
The study found that news in Botswana, in all mediums, is told primarily through the voices and perspectives of men. 'BTV' had the highest number of women sources (24 percent) and the private newspaper 'Mmegi' the lowest (7 percent).
There were no women's voices cited in the reporting categories of science and technology, crime, agriculture and religion. Women only make an appearance in stories related to gender violence.
- There is a stereotype in the minds of decision-makers - women cannot cover some areas such as politics and sports, said Mmegi journalist, Shirley Nkepe. "We are expected to cover issues related to entertainment and courts. They think that because you are a woman journalist, you are best used as a sexual object or a vehicle for their opinions."
Ms Phetlhu noted: "Our organisation is open to men because we want to enrol men who are sympathetic to women's issues. Men should not feel threatened, because we are not saying we want to take their positions."
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