By Joyce Mukucha
In an effort to improve visibility of women Members of Parliament in the digital era ,promoting women’s empowerment, equality and diversity, the Gender and Media Connect (GMC) is conducting a two-day media skills coaching workshop with the Zimbabwe Women Parliamentary Caucus in Harare.
The training’s main thrust is aimed at creating a strong relationship between female legislators with journalists capacitating them with skills on how to work with the media when telling their story.
GMC is a Non-Governmental organisation that primarily advances the cause of women media practitioners as well as empowers women through the media.
Addressing female legislators on the 10th of March 2020, the media trainer and consultant, Cris Chinaka told parliamentarians that they are public figures who ought to play oversight, legislative and representative roles and emphasised that there was need for them to account for the position they hold and have media skills.
He highlighted that every issue is a story and urged them to fully utilise their roles as news and information sources.
“The media is very judgemental and you must learn to deal with it by knowing how to engage with practitioners as full members of parliament. Media personnels are so strong to the extent that you can’t run away from,they are going to be a permanent feature of your life and that’s the nature of their profession. For you to be represented well, it is crucial to ensure that whenever you play your roles you are public accountable,responsible and transparent.
“Women MPs work very hard but they don’t project it properly so i urge you present your work in an effective manner and avoid hiding the media and only look for them when you need them or in the last minutes. Always interact with journalists, demonstrate your potential and capacity and most importantly, know your issues. Another important aspect you must know is that in as much as you want to be informed by the media you must also inform them because it’s a two way communication. Media plays a critical role of informing, connecting and empowering you,they are the ones who connect you with a plethora of people so it is vital that you create good relations with them,” Chinaka said.
Articulating on the Zimbabwe media landscape, Chinaka encouraged the female parliamentarians to use the LONA and NOLA approaches when presenting their issues to the media and urged them to show confidence and conviction. Parliamentarians, he said, should tell the truth and desist from the tendency of threatening journalists.
“In our communication, there is local, national, sub-regional, global and social media. In line with this, it is crucial for you as female legislators to be knowledgeable about the issues you want to present by applying the NOLA and LONA approaches. This simply means addressing your issues whether from a local or national perspective and it will you help you to be heard, locally, nationally and globally. Therefore, you need to know about key messaging and make use of journalists and social media to push your works,” he said.
Pertaining unfair stories, Chinaka told the legislators that they have a right to file a case against the media and explained that it will affect the editors and organisations such as the Voluntary Media Council of Zimbabwe.
Representatives from the media urged female parliamentarians to come on board as opinion leaders who can influence change.
“Once you are legislators,you are automatically opinion leaders with a public responsibility. As parliamentarians, it is important to use the media to make yourself known and feel free to complain whenever you feel that you have been misrepresented. Be knowledgeable,do not lie and always verify your facts and learn to welcome the media that way I believe our relations can be maintained and we can assist you well in as much as pushing work in your parliamentary portfolio and thematic committees is concerned,” said a Capitalk FM producer,Tariro Manamike.
Speaking at the same event, the GMC National Director, Abigail Gamanya challenged female legislators to control their media profile and always keep in mind that they are public figures who represent the majority.
“It is our duty to empower women in various sectors to engage with the media, and works not only to promote the rights of women but also rights of women in accessing media both as a source of information as well as platforms for free expression. As women in parliament, I also encourage you to be presentable, this means being cautious about the way you dress and handle yourselves at events because you are public figures and the worst things you do can become newsworthy. Sometimes you tarnish your image and reputation on your own, so I urge you to play your part responsibly than just complaining about the media,” she said.
A Member of Parliament for Manicaland Province, Honourable Keresensia Chabuka said when disseminating information, the media must focus more on women from all circles of life, value them as well as giving them fair representation.
“Media is a fundamental tool which can build or destroy the nation,as female legislators we are appealing to the media so that in their reportage, media should reach to the grassroots and leave no one behind. We also appeal to journalists to help us identify professional media houses in our constituencies for we need our issues to be heard,” she said
GMC has been specifically advocating around gender and media issues since its inception in 1985. Since its formation, the organisation has recorded some successes as evidenced by the number of female journalists working in the media and the promotion of some into senior positions. It has also been a key player in pushing for the adoption and implementation of gender policies in the media in Zimbabwe.
GMC is also taking strides in building the capacities of female journalists so that they are as competitive as male journalists and want to stay in the newsrooms, as well as starting a sexual harassment campaign and training women journalists on online violence and safety measures.