Report Reveals Absent Of Women In News Stories

A survey conducted by the Liberia Women Media Action Committee Incorporated (LIWOMAC) reveals that women are still largely absent from news stories.

The survey findings which was launched yesterday in Monrovia, said most stories are about men, and when women are the focus of a story, it is usually a negative portrayal.

Citing an example, the report said, stories on women are usually about rape or some form of gender based violence.

Additionally, the report said women are barely quoted as sources for news stories other than those related to rape or gender based violence.

“It is hoped that the findings from this study will inform LIWOMAC’s efforts to prepare journalists to consider women as credible sources of news stories on other important matters, and for engagement with media editors on mainstreaming gender in editorial planning,” the report said.

The study also shows that many news stories are not written by women, highlighting the under-representation of women in news rooms in Liberia with 97 respondents, 35 percent, (55 females, 42 males) say only a small portion of the news they receive is from female reporters, while 82 respondents, 30 percent (55 females and 27 males) say some of the news are from female reporters.

Another 54 respondents, constituting 20 percent claim most of the news are from female reporters, unlike 36 respondents (13 percent) said none of the news they receive is by female reporters.

The study also reveals that only three media houses are owned by women in Liberia; the Liberia Women Democracy Radio (LWDR), the Women Voices Newspaper, and Radio MAR WOPNET.

The report also noted that accessibility of the media by women is said to be very difficult as 55 percent, 150 respondents (98 females, 52 males) said it is difficult for women to have access to the media.

However, the report said 39 percent, that is 108 respondents (75 females, 33 males) think otherwise, while 14 respondents (5 percent) don’t know if it is difficult or not.

The report said the main reason why women find it difficult to access the media is due to illiteracy according to 46 respondents (30.7 percent). Poverty was also identified as another reason by 25 respondents (16.7 percent), while 29 others (19.3 percent) attributed the situation to shyness on the part of women, with 14.7 percent respondents (22) naming customs and tradition influence.

The report of the survey recommended that to improve women’s access to media and increase the frequency of women’s portrayal in the news, ordinary women must be empowered to use media, introduce specialized training for journalists and encourage media owners to build more confidence in female journalists.

“Publishers or media owners must be encouraged to build confidence in female journalists and assign them key roles and responsibilities. This can be encouraged through dialogue between media owners, the Female Journalists Association of Liberia (FeJAL) and the Liberia Women Media Action Committee (LIWOMAC),” the report said.

The report also urged for the creation of more awareness on women issues, as most women are not aware of women issues in the news.

“LIWOMAC and other stakeholders must launch an awareness campaign to educate these women. Radio must be taken to the various communities and get women involved in news making process,” the report recommended.

The report called for incentivize female reporters and other interested women to stay in the profession and to encourage journalists, especially female reporters.

The report dubbed “Women’s Access to Media in Liberia’ has been a cause for concern for many women and journalists in the country.

To help address this concern, the Liberia Women Media Action Committee (LIWOMAC) under a project funded by United Nations Democracy Fund (UNDEF) designed the survey to obtain progress data on women’s access to the media, including access to relevant information, use of women as quoted sources and several other gender related issues in the sector.

Launching the report yesterday at the headquarters of the Press Union of Liberia (PUL), Madam Maureen Sieh, Senior Media Specialist at IREX, urged media houses in the country to highlight women issues in their reports noting that women issues are global issues.