A change in government policies, affirmative action and gender mainstreaming are directly linked to putting gender on the media agenda across the continent, says Lecturer of Journalism and Media Studies at Uganda Christian University, Dr Emily Maractho.

Maractho, alongside African gender activists, media experts and practitioners and academics, and gender commentators from across the continent came together virtually on Tuesday, 1 March 2022 to review how gender is covered by the media.

The ‘Putting Gender on the Media Agenda’ webinar was the culmination of the Gender Justice Training Programme supported by the International Women’s Media Foundation (IWMF). The six month programme was presented jointly for South African and Ugandan journalists. The IWMF offered a competitive grant allocation for stories which fell within the Gender Justice theme.

The online sharing programme kicked off with a welcome from IWMF Programme Manager Claudia Gonzalez followed by a keynote address by Dr Maractho.

In her opening remarks, fraycollege CEO Paula Fray said the IWMF’s groundbreaking Gender Justice Programme included not only the online training but also practical support for issue based reporting, grants and coaching.

“The case studies being shared today is testament to how impact journalism can change the narrative,” said Fray.

“Women’s economic status is changing, and that changes the power balance,” Dr Maractho said, adding that “women’s educational position has improved in society, affecting participation in media management and the content that is shared from newsrooms and media platforms alike.”

Dr Maractho said that historically, women occupied high level position but their greatest influence lay in the home.

“Women were, in some cases, marginalised for public life and their voices were muted,” she said.

Concern for women in the media space dates to the International Conference on Women in 1995 and the Beijing Platform of Action.

Important discussions

The webinar, with more than 140 registered participants from across Africa, included panel discussions on how gender is portrayed in the media. These included “Challenging the Narrative” in discussions on race, queerness and the fluidity of gender with speakers Dr Florence Ebila, School of Women and Gender Studies, Makerere University, Iranti Communications Manager Nolwazi Tusini and feminist author Gail Smith.

There was also an important discussion on how the African media covered violence against women and children during the COVID-19 lockdown with Sowetan editor Nwabisa Makunga, journalist Sylvia Nankya and human rights lawyer Dora Musinguzi. The discussion was moderated by Barbara Among.