Thato Phakela – Lesotho

Thato Phakela – Lesotho

Date: June 6, 2012
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My journey with Gender Links started in February 2011, soon after completing my studies at the National University of Lesotho. Although I had no idea what was in store for me, I knew that working with GL would change my life completely. GL asked me to be based at its headquarters in Johannesburg, South Africa. Honestly, for a person who has never stayed away from home, this was a huge transformation in my life.

Though coming from a media background, I knew very little about gender equality issues. My experience at GL taught me that there is a gender dimension in every aspect of life and that sex and gender are two different things.

As an intern, daily media monitoring, writing critiques of media products and organising public events were among my core duties at GL. One thing I learnt through media monitoring and analysis is that the media portrays women in a very stereotypical way. Before joining GL I never found anything wrong with this and it all appeared normal to me. Half dressed women in adverts seemed normal to me. But within a space a month or so, my “gender eyes” were opened and I began to question the media content.

With the media training I acquired at Gender Links, I am now able to critique content, particularly when it comes to women’s issues. My knowledge base has increased tremendously and that makes me proud. GL has been an eye opener for me!

I recall in my first few days, soon after my induction with my other two colleagues, we analyzed and critiqued gender blind adverts we came across on the streets. This was something I had never done before. On several occasions I fumed with fury upon noticing how badly the media portrayed women. I realized that the media, particularly newspapers, mostly do this to sell the paper. I remember getting into a huge argument with one of my friends in Lesotho whose company used naked women on their posters to advertise the gigs they host. Though he would not listen to me, all I was trying to say was that his company portrayed women stereotypically. Nevertheless, this taught me that the world is still ignorant about gender issues in the media and that there is a greater need to mainstream gender in the media.

Furthermore, I was stunned to learn that there are many women out there who are still experiencing all forms of gender based violence (GBV). Before becoming part of the GL team, I always thought GBV was history. I always got frightened to read ‘I Stories’ and listened to women telling their GBV stories. I realized that women out there are still going through abuse, and action ought to be taken to end this.

The more I read and listened to numerous stories, the more the passion grew in me to start fighting for women’s rights, and I was happy that I was part of GL. My experience at GL has taught me to count my blessings every day, realizing that I have so much to be thankful for. I find myself among those who have not experienced abuse in this life. This, however, does not give me peace of mind, because I think of so many girls and women suffering out there because of their sex.

From a professional front, I learnt a lot of things through Gender Links, including taking responsibility and accounting for my work. I made several mistakes through my course of my internship, but my supervisor always gave me room to learn from those mistakes and turn them into opportunities. I enjoyed organizing events and seminars. There was always a smile on my face whenever I did things right.

Taking part in writing the GL@10 book – an institutional publication that documents the history of the organisation – was one of the most exciting exercises that I will live to remember. Last but not least, after acquiring all the knowledge on gender and media, I did a critique of two adverts. The article was published in the Gender and Media Diversity Journal. I am looking forward to this article, because it demonstrates that I can now hold the media accountable for their stereotypical portrayal of women.

Gender Links has built me personally as a growing woman, and I enjoyed the independence of being able to manage my finances and taking responsibility for everything I do.
After my seven month internship at GL, I feel I am now armed to fight nequalities against women.



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