October 3, 2019
With funds from the International Programme for the Development of Communication and United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) , the Initiatives for Media Development (IMdev) has on Tuesday 1st October launched the commencement of a project titled “Women’s Empowerment Through Strengthen Gender Sensitive Media.’’
According to a press statement from IMdev, from 1991 to 2002, Sierra Leone experienced a brutal civil war which cost the lives of about 120,000 people, with hundreds of thousands displaced.
The release states that years on, enormous challenges remain for a country still struggling to throw off the legacy of war.
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“Women in Sierra Leone are particularly at risk with Sierra Leone ranking 150 out of 189 countries – 2017 UNDP Gender Inequality Index. In law, the women of Sierra Leone are guaranteed many rights, but a few understand what their rights are, with 29% of the women literate, and only 9.2% of them with secondary education or higher.’’
It continues that such situation makes it difficult for women to access positions of decision-making or authority, a situation exacerbated by patriarchal traditions.
“This situation is particularly pronounced in the country’s media as the Media ownership is male-dominated. And in the capital of Freetown, there are a few female-run radio stations. Not surprisingly, women’s issues are not always accurately portrayed or addressed with barriers and constraints facing the media include lack of training and professional development opportunities, lack of organizational support.”
‘’Sierra Leone’s national electoral processes in 2007 and 2012 for example witnessed an increasingly visible role of women as voters, candidates, representatives, protesters, journalists and civic educators in the home, the community and beyond. There were increased calls for female participation through civic advocacy groups such as the 50/50 movement and intense lobbying and negotiations for a 30% minimum inclusion of women in politics during the constitutional review process in 2016/2017,’’ the IMdev release further stated .
According to IMdev, women in the country still struggle to consolidate in the struggle, overcome stereotypes and most often falter and breed disillusionment in political processes, stating that in such a complex context of male superiority and dominance, political processes require the introduction of a granular gender lens which can present a new framework that accounts for all forms of gender-specific documentation and responses to breaking the mould of exclusion.
“In April 2015, in a study conducted on women peace and security by the Initiatives for Media Development (IMdev) with support from the World Association of Christian Churches (WACC) through the Global Media Monitoring Project.39% of women were directly quoted, compared to 60% of men in addition to the insignificant presence of women in the news reports overall. Three years on in 2018, IMdev with funding from UN Women on ‘Who Makes the News- 2018 Elections project’ collected empirical research from the print as well as the electronic media, covering 20 media houses in the 16 political districts and the evidences pointed to the fact that newspapers and TV outlets, especially, are unwilling to open the space for women to freely express themselves.’’
“This apparent stifling of women’s voices in the public arena, and the tendency to look at public issues from a male perspective, and by extension, influencing public policy with a male-dominated narrative, is no doubt, contributing to the undernourishment of our fragile democracy in Sierra Leone,” says IMdev Executive Director,” Yeama Sarah Thompson.
“IMdev proposed to implement this project in collaboration with local media partners through these principal activities like Investigative Fellowships for journalists, Newsroom mentorship of journalists, Editors and Owners’ Forums and Leadership in Media Training.”