Kavango women keep pots boiling, New Era

Date: January 1, 1970
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A story in Namibia’s New Era on the monitoring day entitled “Kavango women keep the pots boiling” centres on the fact that women in the Kavongo region are increasingly taking the initiative in generating income for themselves and their families.
This article may be used to:
  • Highlight the need to recognise the value non formal economic activities.
  • Show how images and stories need to complement each other and show images can perpetuate negative stereotypes.
  • How reporter’s biases influence the story.
Trainer’s notes:
“Women are found at almost every street corner selling various foodstuffs and crafts, while men are spotted loitering aimlessly or at times begging for money”. Reasons for this are explored in interviews with two male officials. Two female small-scale entrepreneurs explain what they do, and their reasons for doing it. Finally two men “in the street” give their views on the kind of work done by women. There are two photographs.
At one level the story challenges the notion that women are not good in business, or that they lack initiative. At another level, however, it reinforces that stereotype of women’s work as inferior. Several journalistic devices contribute to this.
First, the headline: “Women keep pots boiling” might be intended as an illusion to the clay pots that are produced in the region. But at no point is it reported that women make these pots. Instead, the women in the story are said to sell food. In fact, the headline situates women in the kitchen.
Second, the photographs: There are no visuals of women vendors in general or of the two women interviewed. Instead, both pictures featured men. One shows an official, who is seated at the desk. The other shows two men “in the street” who are pictured in an exterior location. So although the views of two female vendors are included in the story, the visuals suggest hat men are the authorities whose opinions matter.
Third, an implicit theme throughout the story is that women work out of depression – because men are “sitting under a tree drinking”, or just sitting at home doing nothing, or have abandoned their families. This means that women accept the most menial tasks. According to one of the officials, the Town Council has contracted women “to do the cleaning of the town and to collect the rubbish.”
Fourth, the two men “in the street” believe that men are “too proud to do the work that women accept.” This applies to younger people too, they say. Young men “would rather seek education and higher paid jobs, while girls seek jobs in shops.” The view goes unchallenged.
The opinions of the two men “in the street” are used to close the report. The reasons behind their comments – for example, why are women obliged to accept work that men find demeaning? Why are women less likely than men to continue their education? – are not explored. Instead the story leaves the impression that women’s aspirations are more limited than those of men, and that women’s work merely matches their lowly expectations.
Training exercises:
  1. Interview people selling goods on the street. Ask questions about why they are there, where they live, are they the breadwinners, etc. Try to interview both men women and men.
  2. Do some vox pops with people on the street about their views on the sellers and their reasons for being there.
  3. While doing the interviews count the number of women and men who are selling goods in a given area.
  4. Discuss your interviews in the workshop and identify new angles for this story.

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