Baseline survey on gender coverage in Kenyan media launched

Open session at media forum on gender coverage. Photo- Odhiambo Orlale
Open session at media forum on gender coverage. Photo- Odhiambo Orlale

A new study on media coverage on gender shows that extreme vetting, selective standards and prevalence of gendered dimensions and stereotypes by reporters and editors have led to women’s poor visibility and voice.

Other obstacles, according to Baseline Survey on Gender Coverage in Kenya by Twaweza Communication, include self-doubt and lack of confidence by women news sources; lack of economic muscles; and lack of political networks and support system.

The survey also reveals that unfriendly media and violence associated with leadership are other major obstacles that make women media shy.

It was launched by Prof Kimani Njogu of Twaweza Communications and Tuvuke Communications, at a media forum organised by Frenny Jowi, of Media Focus on Africa, at a Nairobi hotel.

The panellists were Njeri Rugene from Nation Media Group, Dr Samuel Kamau from Aga Khan University’s Graduate School of Media and Communications, and Jessica Musila, who is the Executive Director of Mzalendo (Eye of Parliament).

Kenyan newspaper readers are spoilt for choice with five dailies to select from namely Daily Nation, The Standard, The Star, Taifa Leo (Kiswahili) and People Daily. Television viewers also have a wide variety with among others six national stations at a click of their remote control thanks to the controversial digital migration last year. These are the national broadcaster, Kenya Broadcasting Corporation (KBC), Kenya Television Network (KTN), NTV, Citizen TV and K24.

There are over 100 registered FM, community and vernacular radio stations, but the national ones are: KBC, Capital FM, East FM, Easy FM, Kiss FM, Radio Citizen and Milele FM. Kenya News Agency (KNA) is state-owned and is in English. Radio Citizen is under Royal Media Services and is privately run; it has scores of vernacular stations under it.

The objective of the study was to examine the extent of coverage of women political leadership and issues addressed, in addition to identifying the hindrance to women from using media platforms.

It went further to identify practical steps that need to be taken to improve coverage of women in political leadership and issues addressed.

Rugene noted that negotiating political leadership is and has always been a big challenge for women leading to women aspirants and candidates receiving less issue-based media coverage than men.

Said Dr Kimani: “When media addresses women they are framed using perceived ‘feminine’ issues such as healthcare, food security and water among others. On their part, men go beyond perceived ‘masculine’ issues.”

According to the survey, out of the 16 news stories reviewed using a gender lens in a week on the tone of stories, six were positive (38%), nine stories were neutral (56%) and one was negative six percent.

The level of coverage was low. Women were covered differently from their male counterparts and women political leaders were found to be cautious in their engagements. In particular, women attracted and are tagged with negative news.

Njeri Rugene and fellow panelists at media forum

Njeri Rugene and fellow panelists at media forum

Three leading local newspapers were monitored and showed few stories on gender. Out of 278 editions (Nation and Standard), only 16 stories were on women leadership, six percent of the time.

Out of the 16 major stories carried in the newspapers in the survey, Daily Nation had 11 stories representing 69 percent while The Standard had five stories, representing 31 percent.

Coverage of women leaders on television monitored in a week showed that only three stories were aired on Kenya Television Network (KTN). On Press-Pass, a popular weekly media programme on NTV, between November 20 and February 15, 2017, only one programme addressed women’s issues and had two female panellists.

Citizen TV did not do any better; its Cheche Morning talk show had no woman featured by March 2017.

Radio coverage of women over a week of monitoring showed that only 13 stories were reported, and they appeared in 20 instances.

“Five stories were of women being urged to register as voters, and two were on women declaring their political intentions. One story quoted women aspirants asking male politicians not to threaten them; the stories did not strictly address women leadership issues.”

As a way forward for women leaders, the survey recommends that they must come out strongly and seek media spaces in addition to building networks that will allow developing clout.

They also need to be pro-active in championing different issues in the society. They should not be afraid to be seen as less knowledgeable and, therefore, shy away from the media.

“Women leaders should confidently carve their identity as well as be and accept who they are. Lastly, women leaders must raise the level of activism inside and outside the media,” Njogu said.