Women, yet to be heard in Zambia.

Date: March 12, 2010
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Women in politics make their mark and their presence is felt, but not by the media. “Political confrontations a sign of immaturity, says Kabonde,” is a news item reflecting the comments of Inspector General of Police, Francis Kabonde. He is of the opinion that police protection should not be afforded to people who attend political gatherings if they have opposing views. “Inonge Wina becomes Patriotic Front (PF) Chairperson,” is about the first female politician to secure the highest post in Zambian politics, a feat no other women achieved in the three top political parties.

Articles analysed
– “Political Confrontations a sign of immaturity, says Kabonde,” The Post Newspaper, October 29, 2009
– “Inonge Wina becomes Patriotic Front (PF)Chairperson,” The Post Newspaper November 8, 2009

Training Notes/Analysis

In “Political confrontations a sign of immaturity,” the reporter does not define the profile of the participants. However, the Inspector’s comments actually refer to an incident in which a woman was attacked at a political meeting by a fellow woman. This is a story about the right to association and freedom of expression being denied. It devalues the role of opposition politics (and for those aware of the incident) it negates women who are active and reduces competing opinion to the status quo as immature. The reporter focused on the statement by the chief of police, exclusively. The story is written to support this view. It is backed by the Minister of Home Affairs defense of police action. Of the police, he said: “that there was nothing wrong with police instructed to move in…to uphold the rule of law.

“Inonge Wina becomes Patriotic Front (PF) Chairperson,” is about the first female politician to secure the highest post in Zambian politics, a feat no other women achieved in the three top political parties. However, she has no voice, at least not in the article – the PF’s President’s voice dominates. In terms of news value, the item scores high for multiple reasons: it is a first time event; it is a feat that a woman holds the highest position not only in her party but across the political spectrum; and it is in the public interest and is unique. The story has political news value and demands that the subject’s comment is sought. To ignore Inonge’s voice is a serious shortcoming in the article.

While the story is presented as gender-sensitive and aware, it is the exact opposite. It was a missed opportunity to garner the views of the public, reactions, and responses to her position from fellow women politicians, advocacy groups and gender activists. One can only assume that there is an inherent bias on the part of the author who perceives that even if women can do (a job/s) it’s better to speak to a man and not women. The story does credit and acknowledge her input and work during her term as Member of Parliament.

Both stories are imbalanced as the sources used in the articles share the same view. The absence of views from rights-based organisations, political parties and women’s lobby groups as well as supporters could have redefined the stories as gender aware. The second article silenced the subject in the latter story by leaving her out – there is no comment/opinion from her. This, considering that she is the first female politician to crack the ceiling in a male-dominated environment suggests that the media in this instance placed zero value to women occupying leadership roles.

Headlines: The headline in the first article clearly attributes the comments and it reflects the skew in the content. It is loaded but because the comments are made by an official it also gives weight to the story and this is problematic. Since opposing views were not sought readers are fed with a view that is exclusively one-sided. In the second story the headline is fine as it gives hope to women’s participation in historical male-dominated spheres.

Visual Images: The image, head and shoulders, is of the police chief in uniform displaying a no-nonsense attitude. To the contrary the visual of Inonge, also head and shoulders, dressed in traditional attire, talking, reflects a more approachable personality.

Placement or Positioning:
The first story is placed on page eight as the second story on the page. This placement reinforced media practices of placing women’s issues right inside the newspaper or towards the end of the paper. Political stories take most of the front pages. The latter story is on the front page as a lead story, perhaps because the source was a man who is a president of a political party. The fact that the source was a male politician, one may assume could have been the reason why the story carried front page weight.

Discussion questions

This article may be used to:
– How does the media portray women politicians in Zambia and other countries?
– Is the media biased in sourcing women?
– How important is source diversity?
– Compare two articles on women in politics and discuss the relevance of the sources that are used.

Training exercises:
– Compare two current articles on politics and see how these can be expanded to include gender specific angles.



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