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Measuring progress: Media and gender before and beyond the 16 Days Campaign of activism against Gender Based Violence
Federation of African Media Women - Zimbabwe (FAMWZ)
November 22, 2013

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United States secretary for foreign Affairs, Hillary Rodham Clinton once famously said, “There cannot be true democracy unless women’s voices are heard”.

Largely thanks to a pro-active and vigilante women’s movement in Zimbabwe and the world over, women have made significant progress in pushing frontiers and getting their voices heard as full and equal citizens with a right to dignity and self determination.

In Zimbabwe, this drive by women has seen some key milestones being achieved in order to promote gender equality and women’s empowerment. These include policy and legislative reforms and the expansion of spaces and platforms for the realisations of women’s rights. For example, the Zimbabwean government is signatory to various regional and international conventions and treaties, declarations and protocols that seek to promote and create an enabling environment for the attainment of gender equality women’s empowerment. These include the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (1991), the Rights; the Global Platform for Action and the Beijing Declaration (1995). At a regional level, the country in 1997 signed the SADC Declaration on Gender and Development as well as its addendum on the Prevention and Eradication of Violence Against Women and Children.

At a domestic level, the Legal Age of Majority Act, the Sexual Offences Act, and the Domestic Violence Act are some of the legislation enacted to promote gender equality and protect women’s rights. The National Gender Policy (2002) provides guidelines and the institutional framework to engender all sectoral policies, programmes, projects and activities at all levels of society and the economy. Gender focal points have been established in all ministries and parastatals to spearhead gender mainstreaming. In 1995, the government formed the Ministry of Women’s Affairs, Gender and Community Development to oversee all gender programmes and to facilitate gender mainstreaming in all sector ministries. Some initiatives by the ministry have seen the adoption of the 16 Days Campaign Against gender-based violence as an all-year campaign. Some initiatives adopted in order to raise awareness include the annual 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Based Violence, and more recently, the One Billion Rising Campaign, among others.

However, as legislated discrimination against women continues to progressively fall away, a complementary change in mindsets and attitudes learned through socialisation needs to take place if gender equality is to be a lived reality for both women and men.

As an agent of socialisation, the media play an important role in this regard. Not only do they report on current events but they also provide frameworks for interpretation, mobilise citizens with regard to various issues, reproduce predominant culture and society and entertain (Llanos and Nina, 2011). As such, the media present an important tool in the promotion of women’s rights and gender equality, both through employment opportunities and the representation of women and men in a fair and balanced manner.

This study therefore seeks to assess the media’s role in reporting on women and gender issues and thereby the media’s contribution towards a sustained and positive societal appreciation of women’s rights and gender equality. This will be done on a comparative basis with the 2011 Media Monitoring Project Zimbabwe (MMPZ) report on the 16 Days Campaign Against Gender Based Violence.

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