A father who served with distinction – The Herald

Date: July 9, 2011
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Name of article: A father who served with distinction

Name of journalist: Joyce Jenje Makwenda

Name of publication: The Herald

Date: 22 June 2011

Country: Zimbabwe

Theme: Sex roles, gender equality

Skills: Perspective, sources

Genre: Feature

GEM classification: Gender aware


This article celebrates the life of a father, the late Phillip Mbofana, who raised his children with love and respect. In doing so, his love trickled to his community and work place. The article is based largely on the memories and accounts of Mbofana’s children, who provide examples of the way in which their father was an extraordinary gentleman. The story has a clear gender lens as it views the life of Phillip Mbofana from a perspective that promotes equality between the sexes. Mbofana is commemorated for not discriminating against his children due to their gender and for challenging prevailing stereotypes about masculinity and fatherhood. In this way, the article seems to be encouraging its male readers to emulate the life of Phillip Mbofana.


The headline is appropriate as it reflects the essence of the story. “A father who served with distinction” gives a sense of respect and honour to the father whose life is commemorated in the article. The late Philip Mbofana is discussed as a person who raised his children with love, respect and encouragement to excel in life. The reader learns that as a father, he did not only serve his children, but his wife and his community too.

The article is biased in terms of its sources because only female sources were interviewed. The opinion of one of Mbofana’s sons is referred to briefly at the end of the article, but most of it is based on his daughters’ views. Mbofana had two sons and their perspectives could have enriched the story. The inclusion of the sons as well as the daughters as sources would have made the article more balanced. The story is less gender aware if female sources dominate the story.

The focus of the article is Phillip Mbofana therefore the language is laregely descriptive and refers to Mbofana’s attributes as a father, husband and role model. The language used in the story is fair and does not perpetuate any gender stereotypes.

Visual images
The images illustrate the content of the story fairly. They seem to be taken from the Mbofana archives, which is appropriate since this is a commemoration of a father who has passed on. One image is a headshot of Phillip Mbofana himself and the other is a photo of the entire Mbofana family together. The caption is informative and appropriate.

Story angle and perspective
This article chronicles the life and times of Phillip Mbofana and in doing so, challenges gender stereotypes about masculinity and fatherhood. One of the stereotypes that are challenged is the idea that self-respecting men should not or cannot do housework. The writer says, “In some families it is the mother or the girl child who wakes up early to see that every member of the family is comfortable and they have all that is needed before they go to school or work…her father would help in household chores and not burden the girls and their mother. He treated us the same, more than the same.” Another example that reinforces the idea of men doing housework is when we read that Mbofana “was ahead of his time, no married man would wake up on a Sunday morning to make breakfast for his wife in bed, do they?” Phillip Mbofana helped with the morning household chores during the week and woke up early on the weekend to pamper his wife. It is also said that “He showed affection openly to his wife,” which challenges a conservative stereotype about how husband and wife should relate to each other in public. The story angle frames Mbofana as a role model whose qualities and values should be emulated by men who read the article.

The article also subtly urges readers to recognise the merits of gender equality. It is said that Mbofana “did not discriminate his children because of their gender. He gave all his children the education, which he saw as his children’s passport to life.” Education of the girl child and the boy child is promoted in this commemorative piece on a man who gave all his children equal education, regardless of their gender. The angle of the story is most clear at the very end, when the journalist writes, “We wish all fathers a belated father’s day, particularly those who have treated or raised their girl child as a human being and affording her equal opportunities.” This Father’s Day piece has a clear gender agenda and while it is celebrating the life of one man, its underlying purpose is to promote the idea and practice of gender equality.

The only problem with this article is that female views dominate the story. The story is not balanced since the voices of men are largely absent. The use of male and female perspectives in the article would have made the story more balanced, credible and more appealing to both male and female readers.

Placement and positioning
The story is on the tenth page of the newspaper, which shows how gender issues tend to be relegated as unimportant.

Training exercises

  • What can men who read this article learn from Phillip Mbofana in order to make gender equality a reality?
  • Analyse the importance of appropriate sources in the storyline.
  • Create a list of gender stereotypes about men and masculinities that abound in society. Come up with ideas of how the media can challenge these stereotypes.

Other training resources

Clipping: Cultural portrayal of masculinity spreads HIV – Mmegi

Research: Militarised and Religious: the double-bind confronting Ugandan men

Research: Tsha Tsha: entertainment-education series challenges masculinity among HIV-positive men in Soweto

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0 thoughts on “A father who served with distinction – The Herald”

patricia says:

What an article.thumps up to all the fathers who are making gender equality a reality.It’s true that it takes a man and a woman in order to achieve development of the entire society.

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