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Gender violence and abortion on media back burner compared to other crimes

Gender violence and abortion on media back burner compared to other crimes

By Natasja Beyleveld of NaMedia.

A couple of weeks ago I joined a panel discussion that was organised by the office of the First Lady of Namibia in collaboration with ONE, a global organization which seeks to address social issues that have a bearing on socio-economic progress.

NaMedia contributed to the discussion via the media content analysis of more than 1,2 million statements collected across print and broadcast media (between 2014-2018), with data referring to topics on politics, companies, economy and social.

The data showed that roughly 1,25% of the available media space covered topics relating to crime, gender violence, family issues, human rights, youth policy, gender equality, teenage pregnancy, domestic violence, abortion, the social situation of women, murder, corruption, fraud and other crimes.

Local media covered far more stories relating to the corporate sector, sponsorships, products, national politics, and the (local and global) economy.

Tying the 1,25% media coverage into a wider context, Namibia is ambitiously achieving 50-50 targets, but mostly in the political environment. Is parity perhaps not a female issue or a male issue; but rather a leadership (culture) issue? We note that only about 20% of journalists in print and broadcast are female although female journalists provide most reports relating to gender violence and women empowerment issues. Noticeable topics from female sources include gender equality (and campaigns) (43%), murder (7%), cases of gender violence (38%), and sex education (3%). About 8% of the crime/gender violence coverage related to court cases, sentences, and trials where 28% carried a strong negative sentiment.

Based on the data, gender violence campaigns in specific, only generated 7% of all coverage usually followed by reports on public unrest relating to gender violence as acts of crime.

By far the biggest number of reports follows a political agenda set by line ministers or political leaders. The top political protagonists were Doreen Sioka (Minister of Gender Equality), Hage Geingob (President), Monica Geingos (First Lady) and Katrina Hanse-Himarwa (Minister of Education, Arts and Culture).

Determining relevance according to share of media space, we noticed that material loss is still reported on with higher frequency or intensity than loss of life. A simple comparison: theft, organised crime and money laundering all received more coverage than baby dumping, rape/abuse, sexual harassment, poverty and violence against children. The taboo topic ‘abortion’ also generated less coverage than other ‘crimes’ such as poaching, illegal land occupation, cyber crime and tax evasion/offences.

So; coverage of corruption and fraud generated more media awareness than gender violence for the years in review although it gained momentum since 2018. It’s about who puts it on the agenda and who else then jumps on the wagon for change. So we’re not only questioning the positioning of leadership on the topic, but also their scope of influence (career interests).

It is noteworthy that more than 10% media coverage directed public focus to projects that would boost economic growth. Times are tough and it influences all spheres of life, for example, the impact on mental health and wellbeing when under extreme financial / physical/ emotional stress. Media reports on maternal deaths remained constant (relatively high), but coverage of unnatural causes of death (suicide) has increased steadily since 2015.

Other than the daily media, the broadcast media that ‘stood out’ in covering gender violence were NBC Oshiwambo Radio, NBC English, NBC Evening News, NBC GMN, and One Africa. Coverage on commercial radio stations were lower for news bulletins specifically as it could have been a topical issue in other discussions that are not aired in the prime news slots.

NBC Oshiwambo Radio has the best reach for the largest percentage of the population, and should continuously be used as with other indigenous languages in northern Namibia to raise awareness and educate the public on the institutions that could equip them best with educational material, or where they could become involved.

Ultimately, the increased awareness, both globally and locally, on gender violence has seen increased media coverage on developing legislation, protection of human rights, youth policy (empower youth, change culture/mindsets), gender equality, teenage pregnancy (mostly statistics regarding poverty, education & drop-out, unemployment, harsh social circumstances), and alcoholism. Namibia’s media still covered domestic violence mostly in association with alcohol abuse.

Existing (awful) social circumstances of children in rural communities, payment of child maintenance, polygamy, child marriages (Kavango, Oshana), rape and human trafficking, are still very rarely covered in conventional media but social media platforms are alive with warning messages per occasion.

One question remains: – who sees the messages if not via traditional media or social media platforms? Is there an interest in being informed in the remote areas? Is this interest guided by the local leadership? Or – does this mean that having most impact largely on the educated, literate part of Namibia’s population is putting pressure on influencers in all areas of Namibia to take action?

Will “PPPs” for social justice be activated, like a network of Foundations, Trusts, Churches, Companies and Authorities; and will it become “trendy” such as achieved with housing projects that mushroomed in the past two years.


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