On the front line of a country in chaos

Date: January 1, 1970
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This article describes how South Africa is sending young soldiers to Congo, including women which make up 35% of the force sent to the battlefront.

This article may be used to:
  • Demonstrate the role of women in peace keeping missions.
  • Show lack of female voices in the news.
  • Discuss difficulties of reporting from a country at war.
  • Show the extent to which notions of masculinity is  promoted in the media
  • demonstrate lack of balanced perspectives.

The language of the article glorifies war, in the manner used to describe rebel leader Laurent Nkundla. He is described as being all, suave, confident and an eloquent man.  The article refers to the more than 200 000 who have been forced to flee their homes because of Nkundla but it makes no mention of the thousands if not millions who have been and are still subjected to other rights abuses such as rape and forced to become child soldiers. However, the article is quick to point out the strength of his “no more than 4 000 fighters” which has been able to “keep a the 20 000 –strong Congolese national army at bay.” His army is also credited for having “launched deadly attacks which saw his forces advance to the door step of the capital of north Kivu.” Nkundla’s army is also credited for the Congolese national army’s infamy for their poor fighting spirit and often fleeing the rebels. 

The article lacks a human face. It fails to put into perspective an ordinary civilian on the ground who is mostly affected by the round table decisions made by the more often than not by male leaders who sit in these tables. Though a picture of civilians in less than dignified environment, possibly the result of war, is shown, reference is not made about the extent in which wars disrupt the lives of civilians. The article lacks female voices, though South Africa is said to be one of the few countries that sends its female soldiers to the battle front none are sourced .The  person who speaks for the United Nations is also male. Furthermore, the article misses an opportunity to further highlight the role of women in peace keeping missions. The main picture shows a photo of soldiers in full military gear and salute, with the main focus being on a woman, which can be used to demonstrate how images of women can be used to challenge gender stereotypes.

 Discussion Questions
  • What are the gender differences in conflict situations.
  • Women and children are affected more by violence and conflict. Is it appropriate to use images of women as victims?
  • What challenges are posed by reporting from a war torn country?
 Training exercises
  • Read the UN Resolution 1325 and analyse this against reality in conflict situations.
  • Analyse a series of coverage on a particular conflict. Are gender issues covered.
  • Write a one page guide for journalists on looking for the gender perspectives in conflict situations.
  • Read the Refugee Act 2008? What is a refugee? Discuss.
  • Read the UN Resolution 1325. Discuss.
 Links to other training resources
Picture our lives: Gender and images https://www.genderlinks.org.za/page.php?p_id=97
Business Unusual: Gender and the economy https://www.genderlinks.org.za/page.php?p_id=310
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