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Women Politicians Sidelined by Print Media – UMWA Report

Out of the 2001 politicians who featured in Uganda’s five major print media houses between April and September 2020, 519 (26%) were women, compared to their male counterparts who made up the biggest number 1,482 (74%).

This is according to the just released Uganda Media Women’s Association (UMWA) report dubbed; Gender Media Monitoring

The report indicates a 5% increase in the coverage given to female as compared to the 21% female (79% male) in 2019 and a 6% increase since 2016 where women coverage stood at 20% compared to their male counterparts who were at 80%.

“A comparison of the results from the gender dimensions of Uganda’s print media 2014, the GMMP 2015, media and Elections research 2016, 2019 GMM research and 2020 revealed that change in gender dimensions of the news media has been small and slow across the period,” reads part of the report.

According to the study, out of the 369 (18%) respondents who were directly quoted in the news stories, 22% were female while the rest (78%) were male.

“Women’s representation as news sources was 22% yet we see images at 29%. By having more females appearing in photographs accompanying news stories than giving them platform to express themselves, the media is perpetuating social beliefs that “women are to be seen, not to be heard,” the report adds.

The study focused on five major newspapers; The Daily Monitor, The New Vision, Bukedde, the Observer and The Red Pepper.

The report also highlighted that female reporters are interested in the female politician’s stories and could have them as their news sources, compared to their male counterparts.

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It also indicated that 10% out of the 298 reporters who covered these stories were female indicating a substantive decrease of 1% as compared to 11% that was recorded in 2016.

While adopting the report at Imperial Royale hotel in Kampala, Carol Beyanga, the Managing Editor Digital Content at the Daily Monitor noted that women in politics need to come out and fight for space other than just crying out that they are not represented.

“You are speaking about giving platform but have you ever asked yourself the pressure that journalists work on like meeting deadlines among others so these women should also rise up and cooperate so that they are duly covered,” she said.

“In our organization, we have tried to prioritize women stories especially those in politics because they really need to be covered for example we have only one female presidential candidate but none of journalists bother to write about them and so on,” she added

Frank Mugabi, the Head of Communications at the Ministry of Gender and Social Development, who represented the government at the panel challenged the media practitioners to use their platforms to elevate the status of women in their societies.

“Always keep it in mind that every story you write or air at the radio causes an impact in the society. We need to change the way we focus on critical issues and our society will change,” he said adding,

“Give women the platform they deserve,” he added.

Mugabi noted that the need to prioritize the interests of women prompted the government to come up with the Gender Policy which he says has begun to yield results.

“For example the gender women entrepreneurship program is under the implementation of the policy, many of the programs now that the government is implementing is under the Uganda gender policy,” he noted.

Mugabi gave UMWA hopes that the policy will be soon revised to put in the provisions that cater for the media too in the fight of restoring the woman on top.

Speaking to Chimpreports after the event, Mugabi noted that the ministry’s goal is to see an equal representation of all men and women in the media.

“We are seeing the presidential candidate where the female candidate is not receiving the same coverage so we need to balance this because once it is balanced, we shall as well see a growth in economic development of the country,” he said.

Right now we are saying equal representation of men and women in the media because once we attain this, we shall see that discussing issues of economic development is smoothly going on well because all people shall be represented,” he added.

Lilian Babirye, the Executive Director of the Network for Women in Politics said that media portrayal of women in a negative way has scared away most of who she said would have been potential politicians,

Lilian Babirye speaking to journalists

“They suffer cyber harassment where in case of anything wrong a woman will be negatively portrayed put on social media, affecting them,” she said adding.

“Another thing is the issue of money where Uganda’s politics has been monetized in the way that for one to appear on a talk show has to pay which makes them lag behind. Generally, elections are for only male because women are not doing well since some of them do not know how to use social media,”

Babirye advised women in politics to be vigilant and aggressive and start looking and fighting for media space since no one will look for them to offer it.

The report which based its background on different policies and laws that govern gender like; Article 33 (4) of the 1995 Constitution, The Uganda Gender Policy of 2007, NDP II (2015/16-2019/20), and the Beijing Platform for Action (1995), noted that media monitoring bridges the gap between activists and media professionals as well as creating the link between the media and its audience.

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