Chiefs must play part in AIDS fight, The Chronicle

Date: January 1, 1970
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This story is the view of one traditional chief on the need for the chiefs, as custodians and leaders of communities, to be included as key players in HIV/AIDS programmes implemented by the National AIDS Council.

This article may be used to:
1. Raise discussion on the role of traditional leaders in HIV and AIDS work.
2. Show the gender gaps in HIV/AIDS coverage
Trainer’s notes: This story illustrates how a journalist may get an idea for a story out of an ongoing event. Following through on an issue noted in research workshops held by Women and Law in Southern Africa in a province of the country on Gender, HIV/AIDS and the Law, the reporter looks at the role of traditional leaders in initiatives to stem the spread of the virus.But the story makes no link between the interview with the angle of the role chiefs can play and the gender dimensions of HIV/AID which is the focus of the research from which the story idea emanated. By interviewing one male chief and making no link to gender, the story becomes both HIV/AIDS and gender-blind.
The story therefore, is not well developed for the following reasons:
  • It is told through the voice and perspective of one chief, who purportedly speaks on behalf of all chiefs. It is a one-sourced story which therefore lacks balance and a diversity of views.
  •  The story provides no information to link the role of chiefs as the custodians often of traditional practices and norms which perpetuate gender inequalities and how they can play a role in HIV/AIDS prevention, for eg. being aware of the fact that gender inequalities are linked to the spread of HIV, and of the fact that often chiefs and traditional leaders do not promote gender equality, the journalist could have developed an interesting feature on how HIV/AIDS presents an opportunity to educate chiefs and traditional leaders towards challenging gendered norms and practices that make women and girls vulnerable to HIV.
  • The story also fails to give any background on, among other questions unanswered, whether chiefs have been approached or are involved in national AIDS initiatives? How they are involved and what has been the impact of their involvement? How many chiefs are in the country? What are their views on gender equality? Are chiefs aware of the gender dimensions of the pandemic?
Discussion Questions
1.  Why is the story HIV/AIDS-blind?
2. Why is the story gender-blind?
3. What angle would they develop that would highlight the gender dimension of traditional leaders and their role in the fight against HIV/AIDS?
4. What sources should be interviewed?
5. What background information is important to be included in the story for the angle they choose?
6. What data is important to add insight and context to the story?
7. What questions are not answered in the story?
Training exercises
1. Rewrite this article, or write another keeping in mind the above mentioned gaps.
2. Conduct research on the role of tradional leaders in HIV
Links to other training resources: Gender and HIV/AIDS, A Training Manual for Southern African Media and Communicators, published by Gender Links and AIDS Law Project 2004, chapter 7,

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