Capital FM Institutional profile

Capital FM Institutional profile

Date: July 2, 2013
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“So far so good”- Wezie Nyrongo

Just a year after the launch of Capital FM in Blantyre, Malawi’s economic metropolis, the Gender Links team who was conducting research on the representation of women in the media paid a visit to Station Manager Al Osman. At this stage, men dominated Capital Radio’s newsroom and the gender equity ratio was at a dismal low. After realising the reality of a highly unequal media house, Capital FM committed itself to a drastic turn around, becoming one of the signatories to the COE program that requires a 50% representation of women in management positions as well as holistic gender mainstreaming within all departments.

Capital FM’s improvements in gender mainstreaming are recognised at an internal level and equally at an external level, being a primary producer and disseminator of knowledge, information and entertainment that informs the Malawian populace. From advertising to news, programing to PSA’s, Capital FM has given precedence to the voices of women and dedicated a commendable proportion of airtime to issues that affect the lives of women and gender.

Not only do women now represent 40% of the workforce, but key positions are also occupied women; the manager and editor being both female. Furthermore, Capital FM has also implemented a sound gender policy, extending to strict editorial guidelines that prioritise female voices and issues that affect women.

Their policies offer equal opportunity for sources as well as journalists and media workers. It is also through GL’s training that increased awareness about gender sensitive reporting has been employed within the newsroom. This has encouraged both female and male media professionals to challenge the gendered norms of reporting and presenting, by covering stories and topics outside of those stereotypical journalistic practices. “The courses made us think. We learnt that gender is not only a women’s issue but it’s about men too”, says Keshia-Zara Osman, who is head of programming.

The change has not come easy. Management faces a number of in-house challenges in getting staff to take a stance, “We are constantly having to push staff to tackle hard topics, trying to get presenters to engage with these issues, because it’s not just up at the newsroom, it’s up to DJs and presenters too, explains Arlene Grimes, the operations and marketing manager. “Presenters tend to internalise the inferiority complex by not wanting to do political shows. We want more women dealing with politics especially in the upcoming elections in 2014”.

Although they are gradually making changes especially internally, they recognise the difficulty in changing mindsets specifically with sources and audiences. For Capital FM, the challenges lie in the entrenched attitudes and traditional values of the Malawian public. Furthermore a culture of fear persists, borne primarily out of the recent political turmoil and widespread socioeconomic problems.

“The history of Malawi still effects the present. The previous government became a dictatorship so people are still recovering from that. It is out of fear that diverse voices are hard to find, never mind trying to get women. Women are still so tentative about speaking out about political issues,” says Grimes. Despite their efforts in speaking to women, they highlight another barrier to female expression; within the corporate and political arenas, most spokespeople and PR officers are men. “Malawi has a long way to go when it comes to gender equality and empowering women. Although we have a female president we must still criticise the government” adds Wezie Nyrongo the editor at Capital FM.

Unlike many other institutions, Capital’s remarkable improvements do not displace their humility and unwavering commitment to furthering the gender cause. It seems the more they achieve, the more they want to achieve; focussing less on their strides and more on what still needs to be done.

The board believes that with further collaboration and training from GL along with more concrete evaluation and monitoring they will be able to set clearer targets for areas that are less progressive. They want to ensure that the mainstreaming is implemented beyond the editorial to the other administrative and marketing departments.

Capital FM intends to target more young women, providing platform for debate as well as encouraging more female presenters to tackle politics, sport and economics, so young female listeners are inspired to subvert gendered norms and find role models within these predominantly masculine arenas.



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