Yesterday, the Federation of African Media Women Zimbabwe (FAMWZ) launched a directory titled ‘According to Her: A Database of Women as Sources of News’, intended as a source book for journalists and researchers seeking opinion and comment from female opinion leaders in various sectors including governance, religion, the arts, law, health and agriculture.
“The motivation for developing this database was that apart from all the research that shows that the percentages for women as sources of news are low, journalists tend to state that they are not quoting women because there are no women to quote,” stated Abigail Gamanya, the National Coordinator of FAMWZ.
In its physical format, the A5 size directory is 78 pages long and covers five main geographical locations; Harare, Bulawayo, Gweru, Kwekwe and Chegutu.The main target for the directory will be journalists, with researchers as a secondary target.
Under the governance section, for instance, there are contact details for female legislators and members of the Senate from different political parties, as well as general political experts and analysts in political studies from local tertiary education institutions.
Women involved in sport – either through personal participation, administration or coaching – are also categorised. The list includes local swimmer Kirsty Coventry and national women’s football head coach, Rosemary Mugadza. Other experts included are from disciplines such as hockey, judo, bowling and badminton.
According to Gamanya, the consultation process entailed extensive research which involved FAMWZ personnel distributing forms for the opinion leaders to fill out, attendance at regional summits, as well as consultation with umbrellla bodies – such as National Association of Non-Governmental Organisations (NANGO) and Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR)..
Digital sharing and security
The database will also be featured on the FAMWZ website and has a free Android-based mobile phone application that is available in the Google Play Store.
FAMWZ collaborated with 263Chat to create the app which as yet features no content, as this will be loaded and updated with time.
“I look at the database as something journalists will use,” commented @263Chat Founder, Nigel Mugamu. “As such, I expect to see more female voices in the media going forward because the argument before has usually been that journalists didn’t know who to contact.”
Mugamu added that journalists tended to use blanket terms like “sources said”, which implied that there were no real sources consulted.
“I don’t understand how we can have a population that is 52% female, and yet have no representation,” he added.
Gamanya stated that while endeavours will be made to update the database on a half-yearly basis, the online and mobile app versions will be edited to add new contacts and information more frequently.
“I think it’s a great idea and a good start, as it’s a ready-made solution for people to use,” commented Rutendo Chigudu, blogger and manager of Loose Cannon and Friends. “But I am a bit hesitant about having what look like people’s personal mobile phone numbers in the directory.”
Chigudu added that as this is going to be a free app, having the private information of opinion leaders circulated widely may expose them to security risks and threats.
As a solution to this, she recommended that the app have a functionality enabled that would share the source’s public information, like office address and phone number, but also allow the user to send a request – like a Facebook friend request – to the source to give further information like a mobile phone number and other private details. The source would then decide whether or not to give this information out.
Women as sources still low
The database was launched at a workshop which FAMWZ held collaboratively with the Zimbabwe National Editors’ Forum (ZINEF), and which discussed a range of issues including coverage, and representation, of gendered issues in the mainstream media.
Various sources of information – including reports prepared by Gender Links – continually show that women are under-consulted by the news as sources of opinion and evidence, thereby falling foul of various policy directives including the SADC Protocol on Gender and Development in which signatories committed, under Article 30, to encourage media to give equal voice to women and men in all areas of media coverage.
In a report released this year assessing gender policy and gender sensitivity of Zimbabwe’s media, FAMWZ observed that women constitute 20.3% of voices heard in the media and that men are quoted more often then women as news sources on subjects such as politics and economics.
We’ve realised that as media advocacy groups, we always present issues and challenges, but hardly ever any successes and solutions,” added Gamanya, reiterating the significance of the directory.
The physical directory has a print run of 1 000 and will be distributed across the nation.