Malawi: Women fight to improve lives

Date: October 26, 2012
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Name: Women fight to improve lives

Name of newspaper: The Nation

Name of journalist: Edwin Nyirongo

Date: 25 September 2012

Country: Malawi

Theme: Agriculture, business

Skills: Perspective, headline, sources

Genre: Feature

Gem classification: Gender aware

This media highlight critiques The Nation newspaper feature story that reported about women who have embarked in agribusiness to improve their economic lives. The analysis, done from a gender perspective, focuses on the story angle, use of sources and relevance of the image to the story.

The headline reflects the content of the story thus making it relevant. Soon after reading the headline and seeing the image of the article, a reader would have an idea of what the article is all about.

The article uses seven sources; one male and six females. Considering the perspective of the article, the use of six female sources against one male is justifiable. The article largely informs the reader about women’s projects aimed at improving their economic lives. It gives women agency, they speak about their ventures and how they have benefitted empowerment.

Overall, the article use gender neutral language. In addition, the uses of a phrase “…fight to improve…” in the headline portrays women as victors and independent. This challenges a common stereotype of portraying women as victims and dependants. However, the reporter uses “prostitution” as opposed to sex work in the article. The term prostitution is derogatory and it dehumanises people involved in it.

Visual image
The image shows women grass-feeding their cattle. The image and caption are relevant and they make the story credible – it is painting a picture of what the text is talking about.

Story angle and perspective

Overall, the article highlights agribusiness ventures that women in some districts of northern region of the country have embarked on. The reporter should be commended for showing that women have the ability to improve their lives economically. Throughout the piece, the reporter accords more space to women to tell how their lives have changed since they ventured into agribusiness. This ultimately makes the article credible and interesting. The article goes beyond telling – it is showing that if women are fully supported, they have the potential to improve their lives.

In order to widen the article’s perspective, the reporter could have asked the official from Livingstonia Synod – one of the sponsors – if there are any plans to replicating the projects to other districts of the country.

However, paragraph 17 of the article is gender insensitive. The paragraph insinuates that sex work is a desperate measure taken by women in order to earn a living. Sex work is a choice for some women. Further the writer asserts that sex work increases the spread of HIV. Much as sex workers do have many sex partners, research has shown that many of them are conscious of their health and they prefer safe sex hence curbing the spread of HIV.

Placement and position
The article is placed at the bottom of page 16 of the newspaper and it is not very visible. Perhaps enlarging the picture and printing it in colour would have made the article prominent on the page.

Training exercise
1. If you were assigned to write this story and the editor had accorded you a full features page:
a) What other issues would you have raised in the story?
b) What other sources would you have interviewed or quoted and why?
c) What other images would you have used for your article?

Other training resources
1. SADC Gender Protocol 2012 Barometer: Productive resources and employment, economic empowerment chapter
2. Africa’s latest land rush: The effect of land grabs on women’s rights
3. Regional: Vital to empower women farmers



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