Findings of a recent research on media coverage of gender and women’s issues in Zimbabwe reveals that women continue to be marginalized as both news sources and news subjects.
The research, commissioned by the Voluntary Media Council of Zimbabwe (VMCZ) says when women are featured prominently in the media, they are often presented in a negative way as a result of the reinforcement of stereotypes for various reasons.
The research, which was launched in Bulawayo and Harare this week, was conducted by the director of the Humanitarian Information Facilitation Centre, Virginia Muwanigwa, programmes officer Faith Ndlovu of the Media Monitoring Project of Zimbabwe and Natasha Musonza, who is the information officer of the Research and Advocacy Unit.
Muwanigwa, who is a media practitioner, told Studio 7 that the findings of the research did not surprise her.
Muwanigwa agrees with the view that one of the reasons why women remain marginalized in the media is that they are often reluctant to speak when they are approached for comment on many issues.
But she says it is important for journalists to go out of their way to include women in their stories.
Tendai Manhundu is a journalist who owns a regional newspaper which is based in Gweru. She agrees with the findings of the research, also concurring women are marginalized or often portrayed negatively in the media because of a social system in which men are dominant.
As with past such studies, the research also shows that very few women are in decision-making positions in newsrooms.
A media and society studies student at the Midlands State University, who only identified herself as Rumbi, told Studio 7 that sexual harassment that allegedly occurs in some newsrooms deters young women like from joining the profession.
Manhundu says a change of attitude is needed in the country's newsrooms.
Other reasons cited as contributing to the skewed coverage of women include gender insensitive newsrooms and the fact that affinity to gender sensitivity is often discouraged as Feminism leading to less coverage of women's issues.
The research recommends -among other things- the training of journalists in gender reporting and an equitable representation of men and women in the newsrooms and in leadership positions.
Muwanigwa says she is confident things will change for the better.
The VMCZ research was carried out under the Media Diversity campaign with support from the Netherlands Embassy and some aid agencies.