Joab Chakhaza – Malawi

Date: August 31, 2015
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Media has the power to set the agenda

“We just need to be deliberate on the way we do things so that women are given opportunities as well” Joab Chakhaza

While the 2014 Tripartite Election will go down in history as the most controversial due to the irregularities that marred it, Joab Chakhaza says the election will go in his story as a huge gender learning point. He remembers that whilst his team thought they were doing a commendable job in having the first ever debates in Malawi democratic history, they had all overlooked one important thing that Joab would learn through a phone call, and that is gender balance.

“After a series of debates, one evening I got a call from a gender activist who challenged me, saying that our debates were so gender insensitive and blind because we never went out of our way to at least include a female panellist. Immediately after the call, I questioned myself and wondered how I had missed the gender component,” Chakhaza explained.

Joab Frank Chakhaza is not a trained journalist but his name continues to reverberate in the corridors of Malawi’s media industry. He is a teacher by profession. However, his captivating voice, unique interviewing skills and ability to put into practice relevant things that add value to the journalism profession continue to keep him flying high.

Currently, Chakhaza is not only the programme producer and debates anchor but he is also the Director of Programmes and Special Events at Zodiak Broadcasting Station (ZBS), a leading private station in the country. Someone else would have thought he had reached the pinnacle of his career, but Chakhaza says the sky is not even the limit.

“I keep learning new things and I embrace all things that I feel would add value to my profession,” Chakhaza explains with a smile. “I have noted that women’s issues are not given similar coverage or prioritised like other issues, hence my desire to add them to my career and also champion them.”

He imagines the impact that climate change, business news, politics and all other things that make headlines on a daily basis would make if women’s issues were included in them. He argues that with little media attention, women globally continue to do great things and he wonders how much impact they would have if they were receiving similar attention to their male counterparts.

Chakhaza feels that people are socialised with a bias towards men and that is why women are trailing behind men on many issues. To create a balance, Chakhaza notes the need to put in place deliberate efforts and the media has a huge role to play.

“The media has the power to set the agenda and change people’s opinions. I feel that as a media practitioner I have an important role to play and that is why I use all the opportunities at my disposal”, he says.

As the Director of Programmes and Special Events, Chakhaza is responsible for overseeing the production of all programmes but also coordinating special events that require airing. This creates many opportunities for him to influence what is on the programmes agenda, including gender.

However, people who do not know him well might think that Joab is smart on gender issues and that he has been gender-wise all his life. They would be wrong because he indicates that every day continues to mould him into a better gender media aware individual.

He recalls that he first seriously came across gender issues in 2012 when ZBS was doing a gender based violence reporting project with the Human Rights Commission. Back then, he says, it was more a case of doing the assignment and ticking the box. He, however, says it was when he started looking at the issues through Gender Links’ Media Centres of Excellence that he started appreciating that gender is a development issue.

“When it comes to reporting, the COE process has made me appreciate the gender insensitive terms that the media is fond of using and the power they possess in creating a gender imbalance in society.” Joab notes that this has not impacted on him alone but many of his colleagues at the institution.

Joab strongly feels that we can achieve gender equality if the media, and other platforms, level the playing field and accord women a similar chance and space to their male counterparts.

“We just need to be deliberate in the way we do things so that women are given opportunities as well,” he says.



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