Published: Wednesday, 02 December 2015

Victor Bwire and Kevin Mabonga

The gender debate has always drawn unending discussions all over the world. While the debate in Kenya has mainly centered on the appointment and election of women to decision making positions, the situation has not been any better in the media sector.

While the media has highlighted the widening gender imbalance, the sector itself has proved to be different in the way it treats women, both in terms of distributing leadership positions and in allocating space for coverage.

There are very few women in leadership positions in the media as there is limited coverage of women as news makers. Looking at all perspectives, there is greater need to protect the place of women in society.

Women have been victims of discrimination because of the patriarchal nature of most of our communities.

In her book The River and the Source, one of the set books in Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education (KCSE), Margaret Ogola outlines the importance of the girl child. She notes “….. a home without daughters is like a spring without a source…”

The book urges people to break away from traditions that do not respect the position of women in society. Kenya has made significant progress in terms of policies to ensure that the girl has a fair access to opportunities.

Notably, the establishment of National Gender Equality Commission (NGEC). The Commission derives its mandate from Articles 27, 43, and Chapter 15 of the Constitution and section 8 of NGEC Act (Cap. 15) of 2011, with the objectives of promoting gender equality and freedom from discrimination.

The Media Council of Kenya is set to launch a report The Gender Agenda: Assessing gender issues in the Kenyan media on December 2, 2015. The report, examines closely the proportion of men and women in the media and critical gender policies.

The study shows that despite the progress as far as gender representation in the media is concerned, men still dominate the industry. The launch comes just a few days after UN Women released a report on the portrayal and representation of women in news media.

According to the study, progress towards equality of men and women in the news media has virtually ground to a halt.

The results of the Global Media Monitoring Project (GMMP) released on November 23 show that, worldwide, women make up about 50 per cent of the general population but only 24 per cent of the persons heard, read about or seen in newspaper, television and radio news.

Women’s relative invisibility in the traditional news media has also crossed over into digital news delivery platforms with only 26 per cent of the people in internet news stories and media news tweets combined being women.

“Many detailed findings from the 2015 GMMP paint a picture in which unequal gender power relations are entrenched and validated, and in which gender stereotypes are replicated and reinforced by the world’s news media,” says media and gender scholar Margaret Gallagher in the foreword to the report.

Political choices Karin Achtelstetter World Association of Christian Communication (WACC) General Secretary, stated: “News and news media are powerful forces that help shape the way people view their society and themselves, and contribute to how people act – at home, schools, work, through to the political choices they may make.” She further notes that, the portrayal of women in day-to-day journalism does not reflect their contribution to society. —Published in The People Daily on 2nd December 2015