Incorporate gender issues in WTO, says minister, Zambia Daily Mail

Date: January 1, 1970
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African women are challenged to analyse the impact of trade and globalisation on their economic rights and security.
African women are challenged to analyse the impact of trade and globalisation on their economic rights and security.

This article may be used to:
  • Explore the links between globalisation and gender.
  • Focus on the limitations of events-oriented coverage.

Trainer’s Notes


 In some parts of the world, globalisation has created new employment opportunities for women, but it also has worsen the inequalities between women and men. Lower barriers to international trade, which are a result of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade(see WTO in definitions section of Training Tools Section), have resulted in the closure of textile and other industries in Southern African countries.

The movement of companies across borders also has brought opportunities, as well as disadvantages for women. On the one hand, these companies are able to provide women who were in the informal sector with jobs, but often international and regional companies flout labour regulations. Women find themselves in situations where they may work long hours for low pay, and they do not receive maternity leave, health and other social benefits that would economically improve their lives.

 Governments which host these cross-border companies are so keen on new investment to shore up their ailing economies that they turn a blind eye or are unable to ensure that labour regulations are adhered to by foreign corporations. Or, they give concessions to ensure new investment. Women in the workforce are the most vulnerable to discrimination in the workplace or, they are the first to be retrenched in these circumstances.  

 Globalisation has also seen an increase in the trafficking of women and girls. In countries such as Lesotho, Malawi and Mozambique, women and young girls seeking employment have been lured or abducted into the sex trafficking trade.

 Gender and globalisation

The article brings onto the media’s agenda an angle which links the local to the global. Globalisation and the new world trade order have impacted negatively on the lives of women and men in Zambia in and many other countries, and is an important and interesting story.
The journalist, however, uses an events-orient approach to report on the issue. The story emanates from a seminar, and is told through the voice and perspectives of the deputy minister of commerce, trade and industry, a man, and a female programme officer with the United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM).
The news value of the story therefore is misplaced on the opening of the workshop by a senior government official, rather than on the issue of globalisation, gender and trade. If there were no seminar, it is not clear that the media would have found the issue worthy of coverage.

 Both sources point out the importance of incorporating gender into issues of trade and economic security. However, the voices of women and men who are involved in both formal and informal sector trade would have added a balanced and more accurate perspective on the issue. The voices of women and men economic and trade analysts, as well as women and men in civil society organisations which focus on globalisation, debt and economic justice also would have lifted the story beyond just the ‘event’ to shed more light on the ‘issue’ for the readers.

Some of the unanswered questions in the story include, among others: How have the WTO rules impacted on women and men traders in Zambia? Is the impact different on women, than on men? How can women and men have an impact on trade policies at the global level? Have national policies and legislation paved the way for more women to enter the economy? Is NEPAD’s framework on economics and trade engendered?
Events oriented coverage

 ‘Events-oriented coverage’ leads to superficial reporting on issues. This approach also places issues in isolation of people’s day-to-day lives, making them seem more theoretical than akin to women’s and men’s lived experiences.

 Seminars provide the seeds for story ideas. A more professional newsgathering approach would be to not just report on the opening speeches of one day, but to get behind the scene and interview a wide range of women and men, both in the workshop and outside, to place the issue in a context and to analyse the significance of the issue for the local reality.

 To do this requires for journalists to understand the issues they cover. Superficiality can also be the result of editors sending junior, rather than their specialist reporters, to cover ‘gender’ seminars which are considered low in news value. An events-oriented approach to coverage leads to:

  • Reliance on few sources, often those in position of prominence;
  • The absence of the voices and perspectives of those most impacted on by policies or issues;
  •  Women being rendered invisible, even when the story may be about issues or polices that greatly influence their lives;
  •  A weak analysis of the issue; and
  • The failure of the media to link the issue to ongoing trends and processes in a society.

Training exercises

 Exercise one: Globalisation and gender

1.      On two separate sheets of paper write down your understanding of the terms globalisation and the WTO.
2.      Discuss the issues that emerge from everyone’s understanding of the two terms.
3.      Then discuss the following:
  • What has been the impact of globalisation on your country? Cite specific examples.
  • How has globalisation impacted on women in your country? On men?
  • How has the media covered globalisation and its impact on women and men in the country? Cite examples.
  • If there has been little media coverage on globalisation and its impact on women and men, why do you think this is so?
Exercise two: Events oriented coverage
 Refer to the article and discuss the following:
  1. Is the article newsworthy? Why?
  2. What issues are raised in the article?
  3. How did the issue of gender and the WTO come onto the media’s agenda?
  4. Who speaks in the article?
  5.  Whose voice is silenced by the ‘approach’ taken to cover the issues raised in the article?
  6.  What are some of the limitations of the newsgathering approach taken?

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