Spain-Africa meeting between journalists

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Spain-Africa meeting between journalists

Madrid, 4th October, 2016. María Teresa Fernández de la Vega presented and moderated the panel discussion yesterday on analysing gender equality and its relationship with the media as part of the 1st Spain-Africa Journalists Meeting organised by Casa África. 

“In times of crisis, women’s voice in the media is far more important,” stated the president of the Women for Africa Foundation (Mujeres por África), in the meeting which brought Aisha Dabo (journalist and one of the coordinators of @Africtivistes) to this round table, along with Verashni Pillay (director of the Huffington Post in South Africa as of next month, after managing in the Mail & Guardian), Lola Huete Machado (director of Planeta Futuro and founder of the referential blog África no es un país), Gemma Parellada (reporter in Africa for El País and other media such as CNN) and Ana Enríquez (editor of Africaye).

María Teresa Fernández de la Vega took the floor to call for responsibility from journalists to ensure they are thorough and professional in the face of the threat of information becoming banal, and distinguishing what is worthy of reaching the public eye, as well as being responsible in denouncing abuse, bad practices and attacks on democracy and human rights. The panel on Women, public space and communication began with the general perception that there is still a lot to do in terms of gender equality, and concluded with the idea that it is necessary to make a continual, conscious effort to make gender equality appear on all public agendas and in the media.

“There is still a lot to do,” affirmed Lola Huete Machado. “Women are half of the world’s population, and half of that half is clearly poor.” Huete openly expressed her desire for there always to be a gender point of view in everything we put forward, pointing out that visibility will thus be given to the real problem of discrimination that women continue to suffer today. “There are women who are fighting to mitigate the injustices they are suffering. Little is written about them, but they are topics that work. The appeal of women to attract their own community is immense, and in the media we should be aware of this,” she stressed, before reminding us of shocking cases such as the invisibility in the media of women’s efforts for peace in contexts such as Liberia and Colombia. “They are women who forgive; who continue moving forward. They have an extraordinary energy that is not being well explained or appreciated, and this is a waste from a journalistic point of view. How is it possible that these things happen and we don’t tell of them?” she wondered.

For her part, Aisha Dabo affirmed that most women journalists become defenders of the rights of other women. “I am not a feminist; I am a defender of human rights, and the rights of women are human rights. The fight must continue,” she said. She also spoke of the lack of sensitivity in the media when showing images of girls mutilated by their families, for example. “They need time to process the information and understand it. We are always in a hurry, but we all have a responsibility to treat people and matters with respect,” she stressed. “Sometimes it is good to take a step back to consider and accept that we can do better as journalists and active reporters in the social media.” Dabo explained the case of a village in Senegal which was the first to prohibit genital mutilation even before the government did so. “Men took part in the process, on realising that it is a harmful tradition for women,” she explained. “Clear information is important and we must be aware that there are traditions that are not good for us. It is necessary to educate girls and make boys aware, since the latter will be the men of the future. One should speak openly about it, educate your son to relate to women as equals. We must prepare the next generation,” she concluded. 

Verashni Pillay recalled the ‘correctional’ rape of lesbians and sexual violence that often appears in headlines about her country, South Africa, in addition to the everyday sexism in business, media and all kinds of spaces. “I believe what we must do is to continue to talk about it,” she affirmed. “We will not reach equality if we do not deliberately pursue it.” Pillay deduced that there is news “invented” for a masculine audience, as well as ways of working and structures that we repeat in the media that are intended for men. She also pointed out that one should not take constitutional rights and political progress for granted and that in her country there are progressive laws and regressive people coexisting. “We do not give boys the message that it is alright to cry or show emotions, and then they become parents that only know how to express rage and violence,” she stated, before linking her speech to the case of Oscar Pistorius as a reflection of the general violence against women. “It happens all the time in South Africa. They are matters we are not dealing with,” she asserted, before calling for creativity to tackle the challenges faced by women in general and women journalists in particular, referring among other things to the three months of legal maternity leave in her country. 

“There is a lot of progress to be made in how we are telling stories,” Gemma also affirmed. “We tend to victimise women, to denigrate them. I think we have to give much greater depth and context to the matter of gender violence against women, for example. This matter is minimised with the treatment given in the media.” Gemma also complained that when journalists such as herself are called for in talks, they become “the anecdote”, not the expert in democratic republics, but the “female reporter”. Gemma recalled that it is necessary to be aware of our everyday gestures and to fight for equality in the details and every day. 

Ana Henríquez recalled that there is still a glass ceiling due to the sexism that still survives in our societies. “We women journalists are afraid of tackling gender matters because we feel that they pigeonhole us, as if you could only talk about women’s matters,” she added. “Talking about women who are not always victims, who are brave, who do things from which one must learn,” was one of the calls she made to the media. Even so, she also pointed out that it should not be necessary for women to do something exceptional or heroic in order to get a piece of attention in the media.


 [  1]Mal deletreado en la versión española.

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