Strategically using ICTs to amplify voices of silenced groups

Monday, March 14, 2011

Women gear themselves to claim their rightful place in the community

Bulawayo: After being marginalised in the media in particular and the community in general, some 26 women in Queens Park, Bulawayo have committed to challenge the status quo that favours men at women’s expense.

The women expressed their interest in telling their own stories in the media instead of having men reporting women’s issues. The women realized that most of the stories in the local media did not portray women positively, a situation that perpetuates discrimination and abuse of women and girls. The women also noted that besides being portrayed negatively in the media, their voices were also underrepresented. During a media analysis exercise, the women noted that most of the voices that dominated the newspapers that were available during the workshop were those of men.

During the workshop that was held at Noah’s Ark Ministries in Queens Park East, participants at the workshop were introduced to the world on citizen journalism and social networking using modern information and communication technologies. For the first time in their lives, the women opened e-mail addresses as a stepping stone into communicating at a global level. The women then got into the serious business of learning how to tell their stories. The women were introduced to the five ‘W’ and an ‘H’, (Who, When, Where, What, Why and How) the basic requirements for a good story.

The women then got the opportunity to put what they had learnt into practice. They wrote brief news articles and later shared their stories with the rest of the group. Faustina Maravanyika, 26, one of the participants felt that given the opportunity, she could now write better stories for the community, stories that uplifts and empower women and girls.

“All my life I had never had an interest in newspapers. I always thought that newspapers were for men. Even the local gossip and celebrity stories were all male dominated and uninteresting. With the coming in of internet based social networks, I will now have interest in news because I will be one of the people contributing through the creation of original content told by a woman for other women to read. I have now understood that there are websites that are of interest to me and other women,” said Maravanyika.

The workshop was organized by the Creative Centre for Communication and Development under the first phase of its project ‘Giving back marginalised women and girls their voices.’

This first phase, Capacity building in Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs), seeks to increase ownership and control of the media by women and girls in Zimbabwe through ‘laying technology into their hands’. This phase challenges the monopolistic nature of the media environment in Zimbabwe where government owns and controls most media outlets and where men dominate. It is intended to bridge the gender gap in the ownership and control of the media while using ICTs and journalism to empower women and girls, provide people with access to information, allowing for community development and human connection. Beneficiaries will be trained in Advanced Computer skills including using Internet technologies and Web 2.0 in particular. Beneficiaries will be empowered to become citizen journalists, playing an active role in the process of collecting, reporting, analysing and disseminating news and information in order to provide independent, reliable, accurate, wide ranging and relevant information that a democratic Zimbabwe requires.

The programme was made possible through a generous donation from the World Association for Christian Communication (WACC).