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Media missed chance to educate on women’s leadership

By Jane Godia

While opening the Homa Bay Investment Expo, President William Ruto called for election of women governors to have diversified and inclusive political leadership.

The media picked this up but instead of using the platforms to inform and educate on inclusive leadership, in which gender equality thrives, they made it a topic of debate.

While debate with the audience is good, most media in Kenya appear to forget they have a role to play in not only informing but also educating.

It’s high time media retained journalists specialised on gender equality, diversity and inclusivity. The media must educate itself on the Constitution and understand the Bill of Rights, which demands equality and non-discrimination. The media ought to take a strong public stand for gender equity, diversity and inclusion.

As the moderator between the people and the government, the media must strive to not just allow for debates or opinions that are educative but also bring in civic education for proper public understanding of critical issues.

Currently, Kenya has seven female governors. This is a good starting point for media conversations on the importance of electing women. For example, Gladys Wanga of Homa Bay was elected in the county where she is married, while Cecily Mbarire of Embu was elected in the county where she is born but not married. These are two good examples of bringing information and educating the voter that there is nothing wrong with electing women.

The world is made up of men and women and gender equality allows us to offer equal opportunities to all. And where there has been marginalisation and discrimination then affirmative action is used to strike a balance, which is why we have the two-thirds gender rule. The Kenyan voter still remains ignorant of these provisions. Whenever there is a debate about women county representatives, media has not been able to take the responsibility to educate the voter on why these seats exist.

It’s important that the unconscious gender bias in the media and among voters is recognised and eliminated through proper education. Personal experiences, stereotypes and cultural environment can all impact our decisions and actions without us realising it. Gender bias constitutes unconscious or conscious prejudices based on preconceived ideas of what women and men’s attributes, characteristics and roles should be.

The voter, through socialisation and cultural beliefs, has been made to believe that women cannot be elected. But this is changing, with some women politicians getting a second or third term.

Gender equality means equal outcomes for women, men and gender-diverse people. The principle is focused on providing men and women with equal opportunities at work.

Gender equity means giving women the tools to succeed. A focus on equity bridges the gaps in equality through laws and policies and gender focused programmes that don’t just level the playing field, but also work to change the culture within the workplace to be more supportive of women.

This is where the media must come in with more inclusive content, not just by making women part of their panels but also by creating programmes that educate on why women can and should be elected.

Homa Bay, Nakuru, Kiambu and Murang’a counties are leading examples of counties where women have got constituency seats even if through very difficult circumstances. They could be used as examples in educating the masses to understand that they can look at the women who are vying as leaders.

Media is the prism that society sees itself through. We have a responsibility to promote gender equality and diversity. In 2020, the World Association of News Publishers, through its Women in News Programme, carried out a survey that indicated only one voice in five in the news is a woman. The stereotypical portrayal of women has led to these low numbers.

Media should promote educative programmes and analysis and bring out stories that give prominence to women, include their voices and challenge negative stereotypes.

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