Rwandan Girls Call for Gender Sensitive Reporting From Local Media

Photo: New Times
Meeting with young women.

Young women are asking the media to do more in the fight against teenage pregnancies, gender disparity, and discrimination.

They made the call yesterday during a visit to The New Times where one of the women, Pélagie Umutesi, took over as the managing director of the publication for the day.

"Why is it that the media focuses on frivolous things that shame women? Why is it that the media does not get to the grassroots and listen to the challenges girls face?" Umutesi asked.

She pointed out that women's voices are minimal in the news and that there are fewer women journalists, issues that must change.

Umutesi, who is in her early 20's, is a student at the East African University Rwanda - Nyagatare Campus.

She was accompanied by other young women who also made demands that ranged from increasing awareness on gender stereotyping to ease of access to information and tools to end teenage pregnancies.

The visit was part of a program by Plan International dubbed "Girls Get Equal". The program is a youth-led social movement aimed at raising awareness about the challenges girls from the grassroots face and propose.

As part of the program is the campaign #GirlTakeOver where the young women take over leadership responsibilities in organizations, highlight the issues they face and demand change.

One of the young women, Naome Mukantaganda used data to back her arguments.

"I did a small research and I found out that in the media [Rwanda] as a whole, the percentage of men is 75.5% whereas that of women is 24.5% and in positions of chief editors, it is 82.6% for men and barely 17.4% for the women which is worrying," she said.

Mukantanganda emphasized that the figures are like this not because women are unable to compete in male-dominated fields but because of reasons like fear to venture into media and weaknesses in the recruitment process.

"Many women are afraid of venturing into mainstream media because of the stereotype that it a male-dominated field and the recruitment process has also frustrated us which makes the figures appear that way,"' she said.

On teenage pregnancies, another of the young women, Sabrine Keza Irabaruta who had earlier on taken over at DfID, pointed out that it is so rampant of late because of lack of proper information, no access to contraceptives and poverty which lures them into making irrational decisions.

"Of late, many girls end up with early pregnancies from mainly older men, especially those in positions of leadership and speaking out becomes really hard as there is no one to report to,"' Irabaruta said.

William Mutero, Plan International Rwanda Country Director, observed that the campaign presents a chance for girls to tell their own stories and highlight their successes and strengths unlike what has been portrayed in the mainstream media where their weaknesses or stereotypes have been put on the forefront.

Ideas were exchanged in various ways how the rights and freedoms of the girls can be respected and protected

The New Times committed to partner with Plan International Rwanda to address the challenges faced by girls as well as do more to empower young girls.

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