Malawi: mother groups fight against child exploitation

Date: October 26, 2012
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Malawi: mother groups fight against child exploitation

Name of article: Community works together to save children from exploitation

Name of publication: The Nation

Name of writer: Phillip Pemba

Date: 22 June 2012

Country: Malawi

Theme: Young women, child abuse, education

Skills: Perspective, sources

Genre: Feature

Gem classification: Gender aware

This media highlight analyses a story published in Malawi’s Nation newspaper regarding an initiative that “mother groups” in one of the districts in the country have taken to ensure that school-going age children remain in school. In Malawi, child labour and early marriages continue to force youngsters out of school. This critique is done from a gender perspective.

The headline is relevant to the article as it brings out the core issue in the story – saving children from exploitation. However, the headline uses the word “community” and “together” yet men are neither heard in the story nor reported to be taking part in the exercise. Perhaps the reporter could have been more specific by titling the story “women work together to save children from exploitation”.

The article uses five sources; three males and two females. The reporter also uses statistical information from authenticated secondary sources to substantiate the arguments in the article. The sources include the 2010 Malawi Demographic and Health Study, the 2001 Child Labour Survey and the Unicef report. However, the journalist does not indicate when Unicef released the report he quoted from.

The article features voices of a girl and a boy – beneficiaries of the initiative. Chawezi Gondwe, another source in the story, represents the voice of the mother groups – drivers of the initiative. On the other hand, the male voices are commenting as sponsors of the mother groups’ initiative.

However, the last two male voices in the article are speaking from a more authoritative point of view compared to the first two female sources. It could have been proper therefore if the journalist had included a voice of a prominent female gender activist to speak at the same level of authority. This could have informed a reader that women in authority also have ideas of curbing children exploitation in the country. For instance, the journalist could have interviewed Emma Kaliya of NGO Gender Coordination Networks as opposed to merely showing her in one of the images in the story. From sources point-of-view, inclusion of a female gender activists could have made the article a gender balanced one.

The article uses gender sensitive language.

Visual Images
Tow images accompanied the story and they are relevant. However the image at the bottom only introduces the chairperson of NGO Gender Coordination Networks as Kaliya as opposed to addressing her with a full name. Journalistically it is wrong either to give only the first name or surname of a character in a news story unless if there is a reason for doing so.

Story Angle
Overall, the article informs the reader that poverty and sometimes parents’ negligence on their children lead youngsters into things that force them out of school. This, the journalist writes “frustrates efforts of achieving universal access to primary education [in Malawi].”

Following this, the writer highlights the importance and the fruits of mother groups’ initiative which is aimed at ensuring that school-going age children remain in class.
Further, the reporter should be commended for uses statistical information from the above mentioned secondary sources. The information shows the state of child exploitation in the country and the danger it is posing on youngsters. This statistical information ultimately calls for a need to save the youngsters from exploitation.

However, the article does tell the reader about the future of the project. Since child exploitation is a national issue, the writer could have asked the Executive Director of Centre for Youth and Children Affairs – Rogers Newa – if similar projects will be extended to other districts in the country.

Placement and positioning

A bold headline and two images make the article prominent. In addition, the editor accorded the story a full features’ page.

Training exercise
– Why should journalists always ensure to balance news sources in terms of sex?
– If you were asked to write this story, what other sources could you have interviewed and why?
– Write a feature story to highlight the plight of girls in your locality. In the story, discuss the challenges that youngsters are facing and suggest the possible interventions that must be taken to address them.

Other training resources
– Female school drop-outs go back to school
– 2012 SADC Gender Protocol Barometer: Education and training chapter
– Malawi: Parents marrying off daughters as young as nine



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