EAJA Report: Enhancing Gender Equality in the Media in Eastern Africa

The Eastern Africa Journalists Association (EAJA), an association that brings together journalists unions and associations in Eastern Africa, today published a regional report on "Gender Equality in the Media in Eastern Africa". The report is based on key gender planning concepts, namely Sex and Gender, Gender Equality and Gender Mainstreaming.

The report reveals the vivid role that women journalists can play through their journalists’ organizations in the region and the vibrant role of the media in addressing gender issues. It is part of a project that was designed to tackle core problems facing women in the media, empower women journalists to fight for their rights and give women and male journalists the opportunity to talk about their weaknesses of reporting gender issues such as violence against women; self-immolation; illiteracy, lack of educational opportunities; traditional values; raising their responsiveness about their rights in the profession.

"Women journalists face numerous problems in their push for professional rights and to report on gender issues. Notably, discrimination at work as a result of employers failing to adhere to labour rights of women journalists. They do not receive equal opportunities as male journalists do in terms of training and advancement in their career" said Omar Faruk Osman, EAJA Secretary General.

According to the report, "newsrooms are not well known for gender friendly culture. Sexist jokes and stereotypes are common. Work practices are often not family friendly. The glass ceiling in the media is among the worst of any institution. For example, a bigger percentage of gender related violations, whether sex abuse or other violations, remain unreported in Somalia for fear of discrimination among the society in line with the strict cultural values".

"The Media in Eastern Africa is male dominated. Although women are the majority comprising of about 52 percent of the total human population, they comprise less than 20% of all professional journalists" the report says.

"The survey in Eastern Africa in 2008 has revealed through the findings that much remains to be done to achieve gender equality in journalism in the region. Eastern Africa is a war torn zone; however in the same region you have the booming media businesses on the continent" said Gabriel Baglo, Director of IFJ Africa.

The Eastern Africa is defined for the purpose of this study as a region that comprises ten countries namely- Burundi, Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, Somalia, Sudan, Tanzania and Uganda. The region is also characterised by unending civil strife and political upheavals including the long drawn civil war in the Sudanese region of Darfur, the persistent problem of rebel activity in Northern Uganda, the relentless fighting and militia activity in Somalia, the rivalry between Ethiopia and Eritrea, the fighting in Burundi and the January 2008 political unrests in Kenya. In line with the regional report that was conducted in conjunction with EAJA affiliates, Only 17 percent of news sources are female (although women make 52 percent of the population), less than 10 percent of the sources for politics, economics and sports stories are women. Only 8% of politician sources are women even though 17% of the members of parliament in the region are women.

The report states that some media houses "violate rights of women journalists such as presenting them as sexual objects; sexual harassment, intimidation, abuse, undervaluing or ignoring their work, successes, efforts, rights and by symbolically destroying or frustrating them".

This report was made possible through financial support provided by the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs in collaboration with Norwegian Union of Journalists (NJ) and the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ)