Gender gaps in the Southern Africa media are slowly closing

Date: January 1, 1970
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Southern Africa has made significant progress towards achieving better gender balance in the news and in newsrooms, but it is still far from achieving equality by any one of the measures used in the third Global Media Monitoring Project (GMMP).

For immediate release
While women sources have increased from 17% in the regional Gender and Media Baseline Study (GMBS) conducted by Gender Links (GL) and the Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA) in 2002 to 19% in the GMMP conducted across 76 countries in 2005, this is below the global average of 21 %.
However, nine out of the 13 SADC countries showed an improvement, with South Africa (26%) now leading the way, followed by Swaziland, Mauritius, Namibia, Mozambique, and Zimbabwe. Belgium (31%) tops the global list; followed by Sweden and Colombia (30%). The highest performer in Africa is Rwanda (31%).  Angola, with 13% women sources tails the regional and global list.
The study, released in London today, is a snapshot of the representation and portrayal of women and men in the news on one day of the year that has been conducted every five years since the Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing in 1995. It covered 13,000 news items, compared to the 25,000 in the regional GMBS.
However, the fact that all 13 Southern African countries participated in the global study and provided 8% of the news items monitored makes the regional findings of the GMMP an important benchmark for the region. GL in partnership with MISA, the Gender and Media Southern Africa Network (GEMSA) and the Media Monitoring Project (MMP) has conducted an analysis of the Southern African findings. 
  • Other than women sources as a proportion of the total other significant findings for the region include:
     There has been some improvement in women’s voices being heard in “hard” news:  For example, women sources in the political topic category increased from 8% in the GMBS to 14% in the GMMP.
  • Women are still, however, not heard in proportion to their strengths in any one of the professions. For example, women in Southern Africa comprise 20% of parliamentarians, but only 14% of the politicians quoted.
  • Women in Southern Africa are least likely to be the subjects or focus of the event or story; women are more likely to be consulted as human interest subjects; as eye witnesses or as part of popular opinion surveys.  These categories are also the ones in which overall the least number of sources are consulted. 
  • Blatant and more subtle stereotypes abound: For example, 17% women in Southern Africa are likely to be identified as victims compared to 7% men. The proportion of women likely to be identified according to their family status in Southern Africa has doubled from 11% in the GMBS to 22% (higher than the global average of 17%) while that for men has increased from 2% to 6% (also higher than the global average of 5%).
  • Gender still hardly features as a topic: In both the regional and global findings of the GMMP, stories focusing on gender equality (and lack of it) constituted a mere 4% of the total; up just 2% compared to the GMBS. 
  • Women are still more likely to be presenters than reporters of news, but this is improving: In Southern Africa, women constitute 49.7 percent of news presenters, but only 31% of reporters; lower than the global average of 37% but higher than previous studies in the region showing that women only comprised 25% of reporters.
  • There has been a dramatic increase of women in the print media and there is a greater diversity of women in different beats:  There has been an increase of women reporting in the print media from 22% in the GMBS to 39% in this study. The proportion of women reporting hard news stories (such as crime and violence, economy and business) has also increased.  
  • Women journalists are more likely to consult female views: Women sources constituted 28% of the total sources consulted by women journalists compared to 19% of the sources referred to by male journalists (compared to 25% for women and 20% for men in the global findings).  
  • The monitoring yielded examples of gender aware reporting: Southern Africa is the only sub-region in the study in which the proportion of stories categorised as challenging stereotypes (4%) is higher than those classified as reinforcing stereotypes (3%). The GMMP 2005 also highlighted examples of how, through consulting a wider range of viewpoints balance, fairness as well as fresh perspectives and insight can be brought to such reporting. 
  • But the major challenge is still to find gender angles in all beats and all stories: There is still a tendency to see gender-aware reporting as stories about successful women, rather than seeking out gender angles, perspectives and sources in all beats and stories.
The regional analysis of the GMMP 2005 recommends that gender and media advocacy be situated within broader debates on human rights, media diversity, ethics and professionalism in the media, growing markets and media sustainability in line with the proposed theme for the 2006 Gender and Media Summit: “Media Diversity: good for business, good for diversity”.  Practical strategies include: engaging with media regulatory authorities; deepening the engagement with media decision-makers; setting specific targets; taking a fresh look at training; engaging with  media audiences; broadening research to include genres other than the news and invigorating the gender and media activism in the region that has played a key role in raising the awareness responsible for the successes to date.

Click here for more information on the three weeks of activism being facilitated by the Gender and Media Southern Africa (GEMSA) Network.

Colleen Lowe Morna, GL Executive Director and chair of GEMSA on 27 (0) 82 651 6996; Or Jennifer Mufune, Executive, Chapter Support and Gender MISA and Deputy Chair of GEMSA ( 264 61 232975); Or Kubi Rama, GEMSA CEO on 27 (0) 82-378-8239 or visit      

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