Shaping Gender Narratives Using Data

Sakeenah Kareem

When Nasir Abbas applied for the Dataphyte Gender Mainstreaming fellowship in 2022, he only had one goal in mind: To play an active role in addressing gender inequality as a broadcast journalist with Garkuwa FM. Based in Sokoto, where only less than 2% of girls finish secondary school and the literacy rate for women is just 10% compared with 40% for men, he was so determined to address the divide.

With the fellowship, he started a radio programme tailored to sokoto communities to explore issues of gender inequalities and social justice.“This program caters for a diverse audience,” he said. “It raises awareness and understanding of gender-related issues and this is already serving as a catalyst to gender inequality issues in the state.”

In March 2022, Nigerian women suffered backlash in their pursuit of gender equity when five gender bills presented to the National Assembly were thrown out but empowering journalists like Abbas is what the Dataphyte team says is important to drive gender equality conversations.

“The media was failing in its gatekeeping role when it came to gender equality, and it was important to turn that around requiring to build the capacity of broadcast journalists to produce programs on gender and associated development issues using data and deliver it to hard-to-reach and underserved populations in Nigeria, increase access to gender data for media reporting and civil society advocacy and promote community engagement in gender-sensitive practices and policies among grassroots communities and subnational governments, respectively,” Nafisa Atiku-Adejuwon, the Program Manager for Dataphyte told AFYMP.

Broadcasters are leading the change

With support from this fellowship, some other fellows, like Abbas are also rectifying the gender bias in reporting. These fellows now run programs that tackle the representation of women in ownership, leadership and governance in their stations. 

Sakina Ahmad, one of the fellows in Adamawa state, unlike Abbas, said she had an existing programme before the fellowship but was not exposed to understanding of gender issues. But following the training, she has gained new perspectives on airing this show.

“I will forever be grateful to Dataphyte for showing me how to use data in my program. I was exposed to researching relevant data. They showed me how valuable my work is [as a gender-advocate] and revived my zeal to make it better than before,” she told this reporter. .

“The fellowship provided me with valuable training and resources on how to incorporate gender-sensitive reporting into my work. I have been able to pitch and produce stories that highlight gender issues in my community, which has helped me to expand my audience and reach a wider range of listeners”, she added.

Speaking further, Nafisa noted that data is the missing perspective in many coverage of gender and related development issues and this is what the fellowship is equipping these broadcast journalists to do better.

“The first, naturally, is data. The participants are introduced to using data to tell compelling stories and sessions covered, the ABCS of data analysis, developing story ideas from data, and producing broadcast content that incorporates data”, she said.

So far, the team has onboarded 12 fellows across regions but a total of 50 journalists are overall beneficiaries of the fellowship training. Another cohort is due to start in Q2 of 2024.

How Can Women be Represented Better in News Media?

To ensure progress, Busola Ajibola, a gender advocate and the Deputy Director for Journalism Program at the Centre for Journalism and Innovation Development (CJID) said the media needs to ensure that women have equal opportunities as the males, adding that their plights have to be amplified and their expertise be considered.

“The missing perspective of women in the news usually means that the experiences, the achievements, the challenges, the expertise, that are peculiar to women are usually not captured enough or they are overlooked or they are underrepresented in stories,” she said.

Busola also wants newsroom leaders to lead the change.“Journalists and editors have to be deliberate about how they ensure that the voices in their stories are diverse. Diversity in this sense means that when we’re telling stories, we’re looking for women’s angles too in our stories. Beyond [this], we’re [also] deliberate about looking for women experts. Life cannot be seen from the view of men alone”, she said.

Leading this change, the BBC in 2017 started the 50:50 equality project to shift representation in media. This project uses data-driven methodology to shift the representation of women within the media industry and news coverage and it is rooted in three core principles: collection of data, measuring what data it controls and an emphasis on quality.

“One thing that is important is that for us to be able to represent women better in the media; we also need to get more women in the newsroom. We need more women journalists and editors. We have to be deliberate about supporting more female journalists to rise into leadership positions in the newsroom. Gender policies that are female oriented that help women thrive as men thrive will be very helpful to our newsroom”, Busola noted.

photo source: UNCTAD

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