Reporting elections in SADC

Reporting elections in SADC

Date: February 27, 2011
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With only four years to go before the SADC Protocol on Gender and Development’s 2015 target of equal representation of women and men in decision-making positions, Gender Links (GL) is intensifying its capacity-building efforts. The GL gender, media and elections project seeks to raise awareness of civil society and media on the gendered dimensions of the electoral processes in Southern Africa.

In 2011, there are a number of local government and national elections taking place in the region. Elections are an opportunity to increase women’s representation, raise issues of gender inequality and human rights violations, and press for building gender sensitivity into accountability systems. Elections are also a useful measure of commitments to gender equality.

Madagascar, Malawi, Mauritius, Seychelles, South Africa and Zimbabwe are some of the countries gearing up for local elections in 2011. However, election dates for most of the countries are yet to be confirmed.

GL will embark on massive training projects for women politicians, the media and civil society in respective countries. The workshops will, among other things, highlight key gender and election issues as well as build capacity for the various stakeholders.

The media has a critical role to play during this time. It has a responsibility to promote a fair and balanced reflection of the views and voices of women and men in the elections, whether as voters or candidates. Apart from playing a watchdog role is should give voice to the marginalised. The findings of the recent Gender and Media Progress Study (GMPS) show that women’s voices in the political category have increased from 8% in the Gender and Media Baseline Study (GMBS) to 11% in the GMPS. Previous research has shown that there is a tendency by media to report on personalities and not issues. The 2009 South African elections are a case point, where media coverage deteriorated into gutter journalism marred by gender stereotypes and attacks on personalities. It is in this context that GL will seek to equip media with skills to report elections from a gender perspective that will give prominence to both male and female politicians.

It has also been observed that there is tension between women politicians and the media. This is partly due to the fact that women have not had the same level of exposure as men and are often reluctant or wary in their dealings with the media.

GL has already conducted media training in Madagascar to help ensure that media coverage of elections is from a gender perspective.

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