Gender equality seems like a cliché nowadays. Nobody wants to talk about it. This is largely due to some misconceptions that people maintain about this issue.
Of course, when we talk about gender issues, we’re not just talking about women. However, to a lot of people, “gender issues” equates directly to “women’s issues.” The reason for this is the attitude that many people have about women and their role in society.
African societies in particular have not been kind to women. I remember as a child, my mother would tell me, ‘Eat quickly and get up from here. You are a woman!’ This statement has some positive undertones, but it’s mostly negative. It forms an impression that girls are different, or of low importance.
Why did my mother insist that I eat quickly? As a girl, I needed to perform household chores, like washing plates immediately after everyone finished eating. But why is this entirely a woman’s job? Women are severely limited by preconceptions like this.
In the media, gender equality does not just mean equal numbers of men and women. It’s a much deeper issue. Of course, there have been some very successful female reporters. Women like Christiane Amanpour have pushed boundaries while covering news where many might have thought it was “too tough for a woman.”
But for many women in this profession, certain topics belong to their male colleagues. Women are often passed over for war or crisis coverage. Even when offered these assignments, many women would prefer to produce a program about cooking or raising children. They would rather take up softer roles in the newsroom, because that’s what society has told them they can handle.
One roadblock to gender equality is a lack of media tools. Recently, I trained some journalists in Africa. It broke my heart to see these women and their complete lack of computer skills. While all the men could at least use the computer to type, the women simply giggled, as if to say, “That’s the men’s job.”
However, women in Nigeria have made great strides in radio. Sound editing or sound engineering, for instance, used to be mainly done by men. But today, we find women doing great work in sound editing. We can attribute this to women learning that doing it yourself is sometimes the only way to get something done, regardless of gender. As long as a female reporter or a producer wants to make a difference with her story, she doesn’t want to wait around for a male sound engineer to edit it for her. It’s quicker and easier to do it herself.
So many women have won awards in radio for doing outstanding stories. The late Dooshima Iyo used to work with Radio Benue in Nigeria. She was known for her very soothing voice and inspiring stories when she was on the air. When I was a young girl, this lady was my inspiration. I dreamt of becoming a journalist. Today, I train journalists.
I take great joy in this work, especially when training journalists like Rita Eaghujuwbo. She took her radio program on Hot FM in Abuja, Nigeria to an interesting new level by using Facebook to give her listeners a chance to voice their views. Now, her audience has taken ownership of the program by sometimes determining what topics she discusses.
Ugo Aniekwe, also, is now the Director of Programs in Anambra Broadcasting Corporation in southeast Nigeria. Before, she had no technological skills. Now, after training, Ugo says she is a ‘digital journalist’ as she can edit her programs by herself using Adobe Audition. This is a milestone in her career.
Many more women today occupy leadership positions in radio stations in many African countries. It is obvious that excellence is not limited by gender.
The media has an important role in shaping society. If women in the industry would take up the challenge to educate themselves, they would be able to combat biased reporting in gender-related issues. Equal representation in the media is an important way that women can ensure greater gender equality.
Many organizations have taken steps to establish conscientious policies. U-S AID, U-K AID, and UNESCO all have a gender equality policy in place. These ensure that every project is guided by gender analysis, and this establishes common indicators for judging success.
Gender activists are working to bridge the inequality gap. Now, it’s time for women to take up leadership roles in radio and the media. If they do, they can make their own impact on the media and society.