67 Rural Health Motivators graduate, The Swazi Observer

Date: January 1, 1970
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Sixty-seven people from rural communities received training in first-aid and home-based care to meet the growing need for home-based care in Swaziland.
Sixty-seven people from rural communities received training in first-aid and home-based care to meet the growing need for home-based care in Swaziland.

This article may be used to:
  • Provide learning tips on gender-blind reporting and depth of coverage.
Trainer’s notes
Gender-blind reporting
This story is a good example of how an article may have the voices of women, but without a diversity of sources, depth in analysis and a gender lens brought to the analysis, the reporting can still be gender-blind. The article highlights an important pointer it reporting from a gender perspective: Women as sources alone do not make a story gender aware.
This story is gender blind because it makes both women and men invisible in several ways:
  • There is no indication of whether the graduates are women and men; mainly women or mainly men. Women and men are hidden in the generic classification of ’67 rural health motivators’. While the image with the story shows a woman receiving her certificate and the source speaking on behalf of the graduates is a woman, the article plays down the presence of the women as graduates.
  • The presence of men who may be providing home-based care and who were trained as rural motivators also is missing. Without noting the role of men in the programme, the story reinforces the assumption that nursing and care is women’s work. If men are among the rural motivators, then the story missed an opportunity to break down a stereotype and emphasise the changing roles of women and men in society.
  • The role women play in providing not only home-based case, but health care in general in rural communities, is not addressed in the story.
  • The gender dimension of home-based care is not addressed. The burden of care in the wake of HIV/AIDS falls on women and young girls as governments put minimal resources into the social welfare and health sectors.
There are only two sources in the story, both of whom are women – the National Director of Rural Motivators and a graduate who speaks on behalf of her group. In a subtle way, as noted above, the story reinforces the stereotype of women as care-givers and nurturers. The director of the rural motivators is a woman nurse, a profession generally considered to be the domain of women; the graduate sourced in the story is a woman; and the image accompanying the story features mainly women.
Men are described as ‘irresponsible’ because they abandon pregnant women, and this is cited as the main reason for baby dumping. A subtle message conveyed by the link of men leaving women to the abandoning of babies, is that young girls are immature, and that without men, women and girls are incapable of raising their children.
If the majority of the motivators are women, then without a gender lens, the story reflects a media bias that stories about women and their work, while covered, are not significant in news value.
Depth of coverage
Depth of reporting is missing because the reporter chose to approach the story based solely on an event—the graduation ceremony and the speeches given at it. This led to a narrowly focused story told through the voices of only two sources. The news value of a story on the graduation of 67 rural health motivators is loss in the approach taken.
The reporter should have gone further to provide background and context to explain to the reader why the focus on training rural health motivators, especially in home-based care, in Swaziland is important. To add this context, background information needed includes:
  • Facts and sex- disaggregated figures on trained doctors in the country and where the majority are located.
  • Facts and figures on the number of clinics per population.
  • Sex-disaggregated data and information on the HIV prevalence in the country. In Southern Africa, Swaziland is one of the country’s considered hard hit by the pandemic. The role of home-based care against this background gains significant in the story.
Also, there are several gender issues raised by the sources in the story which the reporter ignores by failing to provide context and background.
For example, the national director of rural motivators notes that the motivators had not always been accepted by communities, and she points specifically to the role of community leaders. The use of the generic term, community leaders, leads the reader to assume that the majority are men. Therefore while it is women who are trained on how to provide home-based care and first aid, it is the men who have the final say on whether they can use their skills or not.
Assuming that the community leaders are men, and the motivators are women, the reporter could have explored through the voices of other sources, how culture and  gender power relations impact on the motivators’ work in the rural areas.
Another example of a gender issue not developed by the reporter is the graduate speaker’s appeal for more money for the health motivators because of their “workload”. Often labour that falls within the stereotyped gender roles of what women should do – i.e. teaching, nursing, etc – is considered ‘women’s work’ and it is undervalued in the workforce. These jobs attract lower pay, yet the workload is often heavy. The reporter should have provided information on the amount health motivators receive, coupled with facts and figures on whether the majority of the health motivators are women, or men.
The gender dimension of baby dumping also is not developed in the story.
Training tip: Discuss other reasons why women’s work is undervalued and how media articles often reflect this. Ask trainees to give specific examples from the media. The trainer also is encouraged to look for articles in the local media which illustrate this point.
Training exercises
Exercise one: Read the case study and discuss the following:
  1. Who are the sources? What views do they convey?

  2. Who does not speak in the story?

  3. What data is given in the story?

  4. What data is missing?

  5. What message is conveyed by the image which accompanies the article?

  6. What gender stereotypes are reinforced by this article?

  7. Is the headline appropriate? Why or why not?

Exercise two: Prepare answers and a discuss the following:
  1. What is the angle of the story?

  2. What is the approach taken to the story?

  3. What approach would make the story gender aware?

  4. Is there adequate context and balance? What information is needed?

  5. Is the story analytical? Why or why not?

  6. What aspects of the article indicate that women may be the majority of the graduates?

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