By Oswald Agwu
Nigerian journalists have been charged to focus more in promoting the strengths and capacities of women politicians in their reportage than maligning their personalities and ambitions.
The call was part of a two-day training workshop for political reporters held January 11 and 12, 2023 in Abakaliki, Ebonyi State capital.
The event was an initiative of the Women Radio 91.7 FM, with support from United Nations Women and the government of Canada.
In a presentation at the training, the facilitators, a development expert, Mrs Esther Hadiza Ijeaku and a media expert, Mrs Maureen Atuonwu, decried the prevailing situation whereby women are not offered equal opportunities in the media spaces with their male counterparts.
Ijeaku, a principal consultant with Skill Hub Consult, Abuja, noted that most reporters often lay more emphasis on women’s perceived flaws while obscuring their positive attributes which could be harnessed for political and other leadership purposes.
She cautioned the media against vilifying women politicians and other celebrities while at the same time glorifying their male counterparts over mutual social issues.
“Ijeaku queried: In a divorce situation, for instance, why should the woman be the subject of media ridicule while the man is socially justified on account of gender in a relationship the two should be held accountable?
“Such media portrayal of women runs contrary to fairness, accuracy and gender- balanced approach to reporting, thereby discouraging women’s visibility, social and political attainments.
She urged journalists to employ their reportage to combat Gender-based stereotypes about women in politics and leadership by promoting gender- balanced media coverage, even as the 2023 elections are gathering momentum, insisting that: “if media will change the society, media first has to change.”
Atuonwu, a Deputy Editor-in-Chief with the News Agency of Nigeria, called on the media to always adopt the 50-50 strategy which entail an inclusive, responsive and balanced reporting.
“My advise is that the media should give women a level playing ground with their male counterparts.
“They should ensure that the female candidates especially, are detailed in their stories: seek their opinions, find out their achievements, focus on those achievements and amplify it.
“So doing, as the elections are coming, the electorates can know about the women contestants, their abilities, and be able to rate them equally with their male counterparts” she added.
In an interview, the Communication Officer, Women Radio 91.7 FM, Elizabeth Aboh, said the training was motivated by the obvious gap in reportage of women, especially in the political sphere.
She observed that women’s participation in politics was generally low due to their perceived feelings that they would be portrayed negatively by the society.
“As a result, the few politically active women are often skeptical about the media thereby making themselves invisible.
“In Women Radio, the first and only female-centric radio station in Nigeria, what we do is to engage in programmes and projects that amplify the voices of women
“There is the need for more participation of women in politics, and the campaign has to start with the media because of its position in shaping public opinion.”
Aboh encouraged the women to come out of their cocoon to participate actively in politics having secured the support of the media.
Some of the participants who reacted on the training including Peter Okutu of Vanguard Newspaper, Innocent Agbo of the Nigerian Television Authority and a disabled journalists and public relations officer of the National Association of persons with physical Disabilities, Stella Egwu, appreciated the organizers for the initiative.
They assured that the knowledge they gained would be translated into action in promoting women’s aspirations to leadership positions in the country.
Egwu particularly commended the Women radio for making the training an inclusive one for the PWDs.
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