Are women newsworthy?

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“It doesn’t interest me what you do for a living.  I want to know what you ache for, and if you dare to dream of meeting your heart’s longing”

— Oriah Mountain Dreamer

 

There are several things to celebrate in March, beginning this week.

This column is one year old today and what a journey it’s been!

And to borrow the famous words of Steve Biko’s book, today, I Write What I Like, as I take a trip down memory lane.

It’s been a challenge at times; looking for an internet café while on holiday, with little sympathy from the spouse.

“Everybody else is taking a break, why not you?”

The other day I was in the baking goods aisle of one of the big retail stores when a security guard came up to me.

I did a quick rundown in my head and satisfied that I hadn’t done anything wrong and gave him a welcoming smile.

As it turned out we ended up talking for a long time.

He is a regular reader of this column and he wanted to discuss his interest in gender issues and his passion for writing.

However, due to economic circumstances he has been compelled to do security work for the last three years and now he feels its time he took the plunge.

I was intrigued by this encounter for three reasons.

Firstly it brought home the saying, “never judge a book by its cover”.

Secondly it was also proof of the dilemma that many people find themselves in, that is not being able to pursue their dreams because the bread and butter issue has to be addressed sooner rather than later.

Finally, here was a man, who was keen to write about issues affecting women, which I can say is something of a rarity.

One question going through my mind is “Are women newsworthy?”

Based on all the front pages I have seen in the last year I would have to say, “No.”

The few times I see the word woman, girl, grandmother or wife on the headline posters stuck to the traffic lights or lampposts is when something very bad has happened to them.

Also when there is something to do with nudity then we can be rest assured that will get media attention.

Even if it means that the actual “story” takes up less space than the headline or the photograph, which if you read the small print could be a “file photo.”

While organisations such as Gender Links (www.genderlinks.org.za) continue the battle to attain “gender equality in and through the media” in Southern Africa, there are a couple of things that women could do in the meantime.

They can raise their voices by letting their views, opinions, experiences and advice known.

I will give credit where it’s due and say that on issues that matter to them, men are prolific writers and commentators.

It’s mostly men who phone in on radio talk shows and opinion pieces written by the general public are mostly by men too.

And yet there are many women who are experts in banking, insurance, gender, human trafficking and environmental issues just to name a few, who could steer social discourse with their insights.

These offerings have been few and very far between.

I am reminded of the Woolworths case in South Africa where a public outcry on what was perceived as a big operator muscling out a smaller one saw them withdrawing a certain brand of soft drinks from their shelves.

Even if as the management claimed, the public did not have all the facts.

Speaking up can change things.

This first anniversary is an opportune time for me to say “Thank you valued reader!”  for giving your time and feedback which are greatly appreciated.

As I said March is full of things to look forward to and next Thursday, is March 8, International Women’s Day.

In the meantime take some time to ponder on what Oriah Mountain Dreamer asks, “It doesn’t interest me how old you are.  I want to know if you will risk looking like a fool for love, for your dream, for the adventure of being alive.”

 

afrikarizma@gmail.com

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Lesotho’s widely read newspaper, published every Thursday and distributed throughout the country and in some parts of South Africa.

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