Announcement: Launch of the Lens On Gender Project!

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As South Africa commemorates Women’s Day, Media Monitoring Africa (MMA) is pleased to announce the launch of a project on gender aimed at improving the coverage of women in South African news in terms of quantity and quality.

The project, dubbed Lens on Gender, will see South African media monitored on a daily basis for articles reporting on women where representation is stellar and stereotypes are challenged and, where coverage could have been better had certain ethical and/or legal frameworks been adhered to. In instances where it’s the latter, MMA will offer useful tips to media to improve coverage. The former will involve recognising and providing positive feedback.

Prior to the daily monitoring and analysis, MMA will conduct a monitoring exercise of South African media to collect data and get an overview of how media has been reporting Gender-Based Violence pre and during the Covid-19 pandemic. Another monitoring exercise will be done to determine the role women play, and whether women are speaking, in media coverage. Both exercises are aimed at arriving at a quantitative and qualitative view of coverage and representation of women in coverage of gender and Gender-Based Violence, this will also determine trends in coverage.

MMA’s Head of Programmes, Thandi Smith says about the project, “The Lens on Gender project is really an amazing opportunity to examine how the news media represents women’s voices. MMA streamlines gender issues across all our monitoring and analysis, however we don’t often get the opportunity to deep dive into some of the key issues around voice and representation.”

Equality has been something women in South Africa have been fighting for, from the Lilian Ngoyi, Helen Joseph, Rahima Moosa and Sophia Williams led march in 1956 that birthed the Women’s Day commemoration, to the fight for equality at places of work and in society today. The 1956 march was to protest the law that required black women to carry around a pass when mobile and to present a signed petition to the then government.

While there has been progress made in terms of gender equality in the country, (South Africa now has 50% representation in government, for instance),[1] little has been made in media coverage. Women still command a lowly 29% share in coverage.[2]

“Although we have seen some positive change over the years, we really do have a far way to go to achieve the desired representation of women’s voices in our media and this project will go far in highlighting some of those gaps that need to be filled,” says Smith.

The Lens on Gender project which will not only advocate for better coverage in terms of portrayal, but will also call and fight for the equal representation of women in media coverage in terms of voice.

The project will also see experts on gender contribute to the analyses. Therefore, MMA calls on students and experts on gender who work in the field to kindly get in touch with MMA to see how they can get involved.

We are excited about this project and look forward to championing not only for the adequate inclusion of women in media coverage but also for best practice in media coverage of gender.

[1] https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2019/06/south-africa-s-cabinet-is-now-50-women-for-the-first-time-ever/

[2] http://cdn.agilitycms.com/who-makes-the-news/Imported/reports_2015/national/SouthAfrica.pdf

To learn more, kindly get in touch with Lister Namumba on listerr@mma.org.za. Namumba is the Programme Manager – Monitoring, Research and Analysis.

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