Stop, Rewind, Play: The GMMP in South Africa
on January 21, 2014
We had to limit the amount of media to be monitored as South Africa’s media density is quite large in relation to some parts of the world. We had selected a diversity of media (print and broadcast) and we waited with bated breath for the 16th day of February. We monitored seven newspapers, five television stations and three radio stations.
Finally, the monitoring day dawned. It was a day unlike any other. The most extraordinary thing about that day was the lack of newspaper headline posters in the city centre. Travelling from home to the office it is a usual practice for us to read the newspaper headlines posted on lampposts, fences and anything really that will support the poster.
At the office the atmosphere was charged electricity; all the SAMGI media monitors were collecting the newspapers, gathering tapes to record the television and radio news. The photocopy machine was busy spewing out copies of the media monitoring grid whilst monitors were making sure that they had all the pages of their media monitoring guide. We agreed that we would start monitoring the morning newspapers first and would stagger the remaining monitoring over the next three days.
We had great fun monitoring the broadcast news as the monitors shared playful banter about who said what, when and where. Much rewinding, replaying and arguing and suddenly everyone starts remembering monitoring codes without having to refer to the monitoring guide. The camaraderie that brought us all together is unlike any team building workshop or task. We are united in our efforts with our colleagues around the world all focussed on the same event.
To quote South Africa’s first female deputy president, Phumzile Mlambo Ncguka at her speech at the launch of the GMMP 2005 results, “At first glance 16 February 2005 was just another ordinary day around the world. What made it different was that thousands of people and hundreds of groups in 77 different countries across the world all sat down to monitor how women and men were seen, heard, and portrayed in newspapers, television, and radio. “
Indeed many of us were tasked with the question – “Who makes the news?” It was clear from the many monitoring sheets that we had completed, that very little had changed since the 2000 GMMP Report.
SAMGI through its media watchdog project, Women’s Media Watch, has a long history of monitoring for the GMMP. This was our third global media monitoring contribution and the second as the South African country coordinator. We had successfully used the results of the previous media monitoring studies with notable success in our engagements with the media and our grassroots constituencies alike.
We have used the GMMP reports as an advocacy and training tool in our efforts to make an impact on the quest for gender equality. We have since trained many women in the outlying areas of South Africa to deconstruct the media and to critically analyse what the media is saying or not saying about women and men.
In the words of Professor Lizette Rabe, Head of Journalism, Stellenbosch University, “to train a group of rural volunteers in such a project is a novel approach to monitoring, with a synergistic outcome. Not only were the aims of the project achieved, but a group of individuals were empowered in the process to become media activists in their own right”.
We eagerly look forward to our participation in the fourth GMMP, for that day when we will gather with a common purpose like anxious voters at the ballot box. What will the results be, will women ever make the news?
Photo: Media monitoring in South Africa, GMMP 2005
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