This week’s highlight was a media training session I facilitated along with MISA Swaziland (Media Institute of Southern Africa) and EU Cospe (an Italian NGO that works on numerous programs with SWAGAA.
Six journalists came tot he MISA office in Mbabane for a round table discussion that I led on how best to cover gender-based violence stories. It was great sharing experiences and finding out about their challenges. The journalists were from the Observer and the Times. We discussed the need for confidentiality so survivors can avoid stigma, and also how to include a survivor’s voice. So often here the articles are merely court reports, which is due to the fact that these news reporters have to file at least three stories a day. That’s a lot.
We talked about ethics and policies, patriarchal attitudes in the newsroom (2 of the journos were women) and how gender-based violence stories are often churned out without much sensitivity to the parties involved. I had them put themselves in a GBV subject’s shoes, walking back into a homestead where people would talk, laugh, accuse, point fingers and ostracize them. Humanizing the subject makes for less provocative, damaging reporting. It was good food for thought.
The second part of the training was to head out in a couple of vehicles to a community called Mambane on the South African/Mozambique border. One vehicle broke down, delaying one group, but luckily my vehicle made the 2-hour, gravel road trip without mishap. We were scheduled to meet a group of women at a community Gogo Centre (Gogo is the term for grandmother, and these centres are used for gatherings, teachings and various projects). The Gogo centre we visited had just received a voter registration machine. Part of EU Cospe’s mandate is to get women in more leadership positions. The rule in Swaziland is 30% of politicians should be female, but in reality the number is much lower. None of the journalists even knew what the actual figure was.
We took the journalists out because media outlets here have limited resources and seldom do Mbabane-based staff get the chance to gather grassroots level stories out in the country. This is where 80 percent of the population lives and yet their voices are seldom heard.
The day was perfect, sunny and hot. We met a group of around 30 women who had gathered at the Gogo centre for a pickle-making session. The three-legged pot was on the fire and filled with a delicious smelling mixture of cabbage, carrots and pepper when we arrived.
The journalists paired off with some of the women and began their search for stories. Topics covered were voting, female MPs, education, health services and prevalence of gender-based violence.
After a couple of hours the pickles were made and the stories scooped. Driving back to Manzini and Mbabane, I picked the journalists’ brains. Some women didn’t want to vote for other women because they couldn’t see how they would get anything done. Women don’t support other women due to jealousy and maybe because there are very few role models. The women at the Gogo centre were all taking adult education classes, trying to get through primary school studies, which for various reasons they had never received (married young, needed to care for siblings, needed to do chores around the house). When asked if they would think of running for office, the answer was, ‘Who would vote for me? I can’t even read or write. I need to get my education first.’
It’s been five days since we had the training and so far at least five stories have resulted. For some reason the paper used a shot of the women, plus me. Oh well. The stories are great and the voices of community women are getting out there. Yeah!
Here are some of the stories: http://misaswaziland.com/2013/05/26/misa-helps-generate-debate-on-womens-rights-during-election-coverage-training/