Ethiopian Newspapers overlook women’s issue

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Print media is one of the oldest and prominent forms of communication worldwide. In Ethiopia, this type of media was established in 1923 and is still largely produced and consumed. This means that to this day, print Media still influences as well as reflects our community’s attitude, knowledge, and behavior. 

There are a plethora of people who rather turn to print media, particularly to Newspaper, to get new information. This gives the print media industry great power to shape and reshape public opinion. It can impact our identity, attachments, values, expectations, and faith in one way or another.

Similarly, Newspapers can be a great source of data when one wants to study the values and beliefs of a community. For example, by studying the content, the creators, and the consumption pattern thereof, one may analyze the community and its values. Thus, analysis of Newspapers can be a great tool to use for researchers to understand the position women have in the societal hierarchy. In other words, print media can play a vital role in examining gender equality and women empowerment.

The relationship between gender and the media has been recognized as a major area of concern for gender equality since the Beijing Platform for Action (BPFA), which was adopted unanimously by 189 member states of the United Nations’ Fourth World Conference on women in 1995. For instance, the misrepresentation of women in the media as weak and powerless may push women and girls to develop low self-esteem. 

Initiative Africa, with the support of the Embassy of Sweden in Ethiopia, has conducted a study to analyze the portrayal of women and men in selected four Newspapers, such as, Addis Admas, Fortune, The Ethiopian Herald, and Addis Zemen. The study analyzed contents produced by these four Newspapers, for six months. 

The study found out that these Newspapers produced low content on women’s issues. In other words, women were underrepresented in the media, and topics concerning women were less included than they should be. This may suggest that readers are less likely to read about a female entrepreneur or the perspective of a female lawyer about the Ethiopian Constitution.

Similarly, girls are less likely to see successful women taking charge in the business, political or academic field. As a result, destroys the chance of aspirant little girls to a higher level. Because they repeatedly see success associated with only men, and consequently, they may not even realize that they too can be able to do what their male counterparts can do. 

The study also stated that men are more likely to be represented or mentioned as a Newspaper source. This means that we miss the opportunity to understand the problems women are facing. Due to the patriarchal structure of the society, it is obvious that women face various problems in their homes as well as at workplaces.

The number of, for instance, women in the education sector is still low, women’s active political participation is almost on the ground level, and gender-based violence is very prevalent. Women face these problems daily. However, they are not given the proper platform to voice their problems. Even the token that “women are the source of the solution to the problem they are facing” is not given adequate attention. 

Additionally, the research has stated that women are often portrayed in ways that are both inaccurate and unfair. Unfortunately, women’s contributions to a Newspapers’ content are delimited to their physical appearance rather than their intellectual, or other abilities.

Photographs of women, for example, usually depict traditional “feminine” roles by showing women either in fashion or as refugees. It is undeniable that there are plenty of women in the fashion industry, thousands of girls and women in refugee camps as well. However, what Newspapers seem to miss is the fact, that there are also successful women in the business, political, academic, and in the sports world, to celebrate, despite the obstacles.

As stated earlier, gender-based violence is one of the life-threatening issues women face daily. During the COVID-19 period, there were reports about high gender-based violence in Addis Ababa. Nonetheless, there was very low media coverage on the issue. Not only that, but also the findings note that when violence Against Women (VAW) issues are reported, women are portrayed as victims as opposed to survivors.

In addition to the pain, survivors have to endure that our society usually exacerbates the situation by blaming the victim, and making comments that make them feel hopeless. Instead of rectifying this faulty behavior of our society, the Newspapers bolster such damaging behavior by reinforcing stereotypes. 

Generally, the study has revealed, last week, that Newspapers in Ethiopia produce low content on women’s issues, and less to use women as sources of stories. The photo representation of women is also misleading and highly influenced by the old “feminine” roles of women. Moreover, gender-based violence stories are usually ignored and whenever reported they are reported in a very awful manner, confirming societal biases.

Given these findings of the study, gender audits should be mandatory to identify the gaps and achievements to implement strategies. Moreover, the source of these problems discussed in this article could be of Journalists’ lack of awareness about women. So,providing the staffers with gender cantered capacity building training may mitigate the problem.

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