Reproductive health is a human right, Times of Zambia

Date: January 1, 1970
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The story highlights the serious difficulties experienced by Zambians in accessing reproductive health services.

This article may be used to:
  • Illustrate how subtle gender stereotypes detract from gender aware reporting.
  • Sensational elements in the story compromises other wise good coverage of an issue.

Trainer’s notes

The feature story is well written and researched. It contextualises the issue of reproductive health by locating it:
  •  Globally-Beijing Platform for Action and the stipulations for reproductive health.
  •  Nationally-by unpacking governments commitments and shortcomings in reproductive health care provision.
  •  Locally-by recounting the experiences of people in communities, by including the Traditional Birth Attendants and emphasising community participation in training and policy development.
The feature makes a compelling case for improving reproductive health care services by referring to people’s experiences on the ground, research, services available and the change in people’s circumstances when information and training is provided.
The story falls short in three main areas:
  • Perspective: the story is told from the perspective of an outsider, the stories of people in communities are told through the journalist not in their own words. At times the writer appears patronising as a young woman is referred to as ’ignorant’ and ‘traditional beliefs’ are seen as ‘retrogressive’.
  • Language: the perspective is impacted on by the use of words such as ‘poor teenage mother’ and ‘poor parents’.
  • Sensationalism: ‘The baby finally tore its way out of the expectant 14-year-old mother, turning the birth canal, urinal and anal passages into one big opening.’ These words are used to describe the experience of a young woman who lost her baby and almost lost her life. The graphic detail is unnecessary and is completely insensitive in light of the tragedy the young woman suffered that has resulted in her being unable to have any more children.
Training execises
Exercise one: Read the case study and complete the following tasks:
  1. Identify the elements in the story that make it a gender aware story.
  2. Identify the elements in the story that convey subtle gender stereotypes.
  3. Identify the elements in the story that are sensational?
  4. How would you change those elements that convey subtle stereotypes and are sensational to make the story gender aware? (Look at missing voices, perspective and language.)

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