Editors roundtable on space of women leaders in the media


As part of our larger programme that is supporting women running for political office at the county level, we have in the past 3 months organized an editor’s forum to discuss the space women aspirants were getting in the media compared to their male competitors. The forums which were held on the 24th of March  and on the 26th of May respectively  at The Intercontinental Hotel were well attended by editors, bloggers and other media stakeholders.

In summary, the objective of the forums was to try to examine the extent of coverage of women political leadership and issues addressed; to identify the hindrances to women from using media platforms and; to identify practical steps that need to be taken to improve coverage of women political leadership and issues addressed.

For the first forum, a baseline survey conducted by Kenya Women Holdings on media coverage of current female politicians and political aspirants formed the basis of the  discussions. The study found out that ‘when the media address women’s positions, they tend to frame them as ‘‘feminine’’ issues such as health care, food security, and education rather than as ‘‘masculine’’ issues like the budget, employment or national security. Male candidates who address the said feminine issues tend to receive more coverage. This makes it hard for the electorate to relate female candidates with any particular issue since both “masculine” and “feminine” issues can be associated with male candidates’

After the findings presentation, the editors present were on the receiving end as they were blamed for not doing enough to address the situation yet a similar study had been conducted after the 2013 elections. Njeri Rugene, a senior editor at the Nation Media Group came to their defence noting, “Nobody in the media has a policy to lock women out.” Her sentiments were echoed by her counterparts in the media. She however acknowledged that as a woman, she knew there was a problem, adding that her media house was taking deliberate measures to nurture young journalists to always be gender sensitive while in their work.

For the second forum, we focused on how language in media houses contributes to unconscious bias towards women, especially those in leadership.

The online community was also included in the lively discussions via twitter hashtag #WomenAndMediaKE (You are able to follow the discussions in both forums using the hashtag). In both forums, notable editors and many others including regional media organizations jumped on board and soon the hashtag was trending. People’s views and recommendations can be viewed on the hashtag as live updates were posted there. On the same note however, bloggers and other influential social media personalities were also put to task, “ Women’s relative invisibility in traditional news media has crossed over to the online media,” a participant noted.

At the end of the first forum, a participant summarized the message we were passing to the media houses in the following way, “When women see and hear more women in the media, they are encouraged to aspire more towards leadership”

We will organize a similar forum on the 28th of this month, and one more before the general elections are held in August this year.

We are supporting women running for MCA and Governor's positions in West Pokot, Mombasa, Trans Nzoia, Nyandarua, Kajiado, Kisumu, Narok and Nandi Counties.