IPS – Inter Press Service News Agency
September 30th, 2008

Johannesburg, IPS Africa is pleased to announce the launch of an innovative handbook for women politicians and the media to contribute to improved coverage of women during elections on the continent.

The launch took place at the Institute for the Advancement of Journalism in Parktown and was attended by representatives from regional organizations such as the Southern African Broadcasting Association, SABA, the Media Institute for Southern Africa, MISA and local media, including the South African Broadcasting Corporation, the SABC.

The “Women in the News: Strengthening the Voice and Visibility of Women in the African Media’s Coverage of Elections, Politics and Governance: A Handbook for Women Politicians and the Media” is part of a multifaceted IPS Africa project to raise the voice and visibility of women during elections. See more at Africa: from polls to polls. The project is implemented in partnership with the United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM) and financed by the UN Democracy Fund.

Women make up more than half the population of the citizens in Africa, yet their voices
are scarcely heard. The findings of the 2005 Global Media Monitoring Project (GMMP) – coordinated by the World Association of Christian Communications’ show, among others, that, women make up only 21% of the people featured in the news.

“IPS Africa hopes this handbook will contribute to increasing women’s voices in the media during elections to ensure society at large can benefit from the skills, knowledge and views of the majority of our populations,” said IPS Regional Director for Africa Paula Fray.

The Handbook was written and compiled by gender and media expert, Patricia A. Made and will be distributed free of charge to women’s groups, media and media trainers.
Made says despite a plethora of initiatives to work with Africa’s media to improve professional standards, the daily application of professional ethical standards by manyjournalists and editors remains low.

The handbook aims to:

– Encourage more issue-reporting as oppose to events coverage.
– Provide the media with an understanding of the issues and information that can lead to the writing and production of quality in-depth articles.
– Encourage women politicians to speak on gender equality and women’s rights from informed positions.

IPS Africa Board Member Farai Samhungu said the world had recently witnessed Rwanda making history by voting more women into parliament than men. “This handbook comes at the right time to serve as a unique tool to strengthen efforts aimed at reinforcing democratic principles that embrace women’s rights to participate fully in public life on the African continent. The handbook is a unique ‘meeting point’ for journalists and female politicians to hone their skills for effectual engagement,” said Samhungu.

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