News Media Sexism Panorama: Uganda

News Media Sexism Panorama: Uganda

This interview is part of series with the Global Media Monitoring Project (GMMP) network partners discussing how media sexism plays out in their part of the world, and why it is important to end it. #ENMS

Margaret Sentamu-Masagazi is the Executive Director of Uganda Media Women’s Association (UMWA). UMWA serves as the Uganda national coordinator of the Global Media Monitoring Project 2015 (GMMP). Here is what she had to say.

Why care about media sexism? Media wield a lot of power, their reach is far and wide. They shape opinions. Sexism destroys, ridicules and is negative by all standards. We need to end it instead of allowing it to grow and permeate out society.

How does media sexism bear on equality struggles and in our lives? Media sexism supports gender inequality with consequences for the subordination of women. Ending media sexism will contribute to gender equality. Women are often portrayed as sex objects and in the news houses, hired as news anchors and front desk staff to attract the audience. Women are hardly heard and when quoted, it is on issues related to the family. Images of women are carried in trivial rather than substantive programs.

How have your experiences in journalism helped shape your understanding of gender inequality and the need to end media sexism? Growing up in a family of 12 and the eldest of four girls was enough for me to know that girls are more protected than boys. Girls are expected to be receivers. But once I came out of secondary school I sort of became a ‘rebel’ to everything I had been taught. I became more assertive towards my brothers who thought I had to be protected, or not entitled to be in their circles. I became a planner and an organizer. Then came my exposure to journalism. I realized that there is such a terrible gap in the media. I was one of three women in a class of 25.  We had to prove ourselves, and literally fight for space, even to contribute in class. Returning to teach at Makerere University’s School of Journalism where I had been a student revealed that the situation had not changed. But because of my earlier experiences with gender equality struggles, I was able to advocate for funding support for female students at the journalism school. We organized spaces for women to become more assertive. We started the “The Other Voice” newspaper to keep the gender debate alive. Unfortunately, sexism still thrives despite such efforts.

UMWA monitors the gender dimensions in news reports about peace, conflict and security. What is the link to gender equality?  The voices of men in news about these topics are more dominant. Whether on issues at home, refugees, or food supply. Women are silent. And incredibly too, when opportunities for evacuation are available, men are at the forefront. They are the ones cooking food, dividing it and distributing or eating it. The women are at the receiving end!  But interestingly, our monitoring has found no story conveying women’s opinions on how it feels to trek long distances carrying young children and domestic supplies. Or how they feel about husbands or male relatives sauntering along load free! We must challenge lopsided development that benefits men alone for the most part. This includes infrastructure and policies that are insensitive to women. Media sexism cultivates a society where women’s bodies are objectified, where women and girls are not safe because of their gender.

Recent news stories that have caught your attention…

Female musician accused of stealing ex-husband’s property: East Africans came out on social and print media to demonize and accuse a Ugandan female musician of marrying again while the man stayed single. The media sensationalized the tragedy offering no dignity to the woman or chance to speak.
Deceased Professor’s widows and children paraded and shamed at funeral: The reporting was gender-biased and there was hardly a news story that condemned the public shaming of the widows. The deceased professor’s children were paraded alongside their mothers. And whoever refused to be shown in the open, was risking to be disinherited from the father’s property.
Why older men prefer dating young girls: This is a story that gave men power to control women’s bodies. All the voices were those of men with their sexual fantasies. For women – it was because of protection and security. The pictures showed scantily dressed young girls. By contrast, the men were fully dressed.

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