Zimbabwe: How can online/offline media promote public access to information and civic engagement on Sustainable Development Goals?

By Tapiwanashe Dumba – Only 24% of my journalism class at college is female. Looking at that statistics it’s quite easy for an observer to assume that women in Zimbabwe are not interested in journalism as a career choice.  Are the demands of the profession too demanding that only a few women are capable of meeting them? The obvious answer to that question is Zimbabwean women in this field are equally capable as their male counterparts. I see that in my fellow female students, their passion is relentless. The quality of their work is astounding yet there are fewer of them in my class. How can this sad situation be allowed to exist in a country that has signed up to achieving gender equality under the UN’s Sustainable development goals (SDGs)?

With the sterling efforts that girls in my class put towards their work I am convinced that information can help us in making better decisions towards sustainable development. Information enriches life itself and information broadens our grasp of the world around us. If we use phones to spread messages of advocacy towards goal number five as a country we can re-shape our perception towards women and give them equal opportunities. Journalism as a career choice has been widely associated with class and prejudices and girls in my class have used social media to fight class and prejudice which always exist as long as there are people who are physically, socially and economically different.

Social media has played an enormous role in fostering and supporting many women that have achieved their goals. Successful female journalist should be profiled so that the community and the world at large can see that females are successful in this area. If programs that can be aired on television and on radio are created that are mainly concerned with shaping public perception about journalism we can have more females enrolling at journalism institutions. This will also help in eradicating some stigmas and stereotypes that are associated with the media fraternity.

New media technologies such as whatsapp, facebook and twitter have opened up horizons for wider public access. The  number of participants has increased, the level of engagement has increased, therefore platforms can be created were women in the journalism industry get to share their own experiences and if the public can engage with them, people will be educated and information can be shared. This will also help to connect other female students doing journalism with their role models and they can be nurtured by them. In my class some female journalists wants to be like Victoria Ruzvidzo who has defied the odds and is the managing editor for The Herald. With the use of the smart-phones some students in my class that are aspiring to be like Victoria can create a platform to directly engage with her and share experiences and ideas on gender equality in the media.

Having the marginalized and disadvantaged women in mind that cannot purchase a smart-phone and in areas where internet access is low, a program that will bring educational radios in people’s homes should be introduced. These radios should be delivered to those who live in homes without electricity and running water and some educational programs about the importance of women doing journalism should be broadcasted to them in the language that they understand. This will empower women and girls in all societies and educate them about journalism as a career. This will help us reach a wider audience.

Journalism as career choice for women must be promoted through word of mouth. This is a powerful and traditional method of communication as it allows people to discuss and share their ideas one on one. Targeting primary and secondary schools in urban and rural areas we should educate female students about journalism.

If information is spread by all available mediums we can reach and invite many women into journalism and we can have a higher number of women enrolling in journalism institutions. If many females enroll it is the sign that information has reached many people and has acted on it. If what l have explained above can be done to each and every SDG, SDGs can be turned from being mere aspirations on paper into reality.