Francis Banda – Malawi

Francis Banda – Malawi

Date: June 23, 2009
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The youthful but composed and calm voice of Francis Banda is one of those voices that you are very unlikely to miss every time you tune in to Radio Maria Malawi. Banda is the Acting Head of News at the station. Besides his many good broadcasting skills, he has one unique feature that distinguishes him from the rest of male broadcasters at the station. A passion for gender equality. It is not surprising therefore that he sometimes hosts a women’s empowerment programme called Bwalo la Amayi (Women’s Forum).

Banda attributes his interests for gender issues to Gender Links. “I first got introduced to gender and media issues in 2011. It was through a gender workshop organised by Gender Links,” Banda said. “Pushpa Jameson trained us on the importance of mainstreaming gender in media content, and how the media could be an agent for change in advocating for gender equality.” From this moment on, Banda has always been gender conscious when developing programme content and writing news.

Apart from ensuring that women are also interviewed as news sources and that their voices are equally represented on the radio station, Banda has taken a different approach that he believes will lead to attainment of gender equality. He said one of Jameson’s training sessions tackled the issue on how women’s economic empowerment could help curb violence against women.

“I am always troubled when I hear of women who are being abused by their husbands or spouses and they cannot do anything about it because they are not economically independent. It is for this reasons that I have chosen to use the media as a tool for development. I believe that if more women get involved in development activities, they would be empowered economically and become financially independent. This would surely help to curb violence against women, because most abusive men take advantage of women’s economic dependence,” added Banda.

It is for this reason that Banda has featured developmental issues in the Bwalo la Amayi programme. He further believes that the media is a better tool to advocate for gender equality, because it has the power to change people’s perceptions and attitudes.

Besides mainstreaming gender issues in the content of the programmes and news, Banda would like to use his current position to try to increase the number of female reporters at the station. He recently presented a newsroom report to management of the station which suggests that there is a need for staff recruitment. Banda says he would like to use this as an opportunity to see to it that more capable women are recruited. He says currently the radio has few female reporters.

“Recruiting more female broadcasters will not only be good for the media house’s quest to having equal numbers of female and male employees, but to our listeners as well. I feel female broadcasters would also be an inspiration to girls out there who listen to our radio.”

He however bemoans that staff retention at the station is a big challenge because staff members work on voluntary basis. This, he said, demotivates many not to work for a longer period of time. He argues that unlike men who have other sources of finding money, it is a big challenge for female employees. He said: “women have multiple roles besides working as volunteers here. Some of them are mothers, and maternal roles take much of their time. This denies them other economic avenues. As a result, women would prefer work somewhere where they will get paid as oppose to working as a volunteer.”

Banda said he would appreciate it if Gender Links could organise more training workshops so that he gets equipped with diverse knowledge regarding gender issues. He argued that if the one training workshop he attended in 2011 has changed his life this way, then more workshops would make him a versatile media professional. He called on Gender Links to consider organising more workshops in a year as opposed to a single workshop or none in a year.

Taking part in the formulation of a draft gender policy for the radio station also exposed him to enormous knowledge on gender and media issues; this remains a memorable experience brought about by Gender Links to him. Banda is also an active member of the gender committee of the media house.

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