Under the cold weather in Johannesburg, the capital of South Africa, journalists and female parliamentarians from Sierra Leone, Lesotho, Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria, Zimbabwe and South Africa gathered to discuss how they could strengthen the voices and perspectives of African women politicians in elections and governance.
Keeping warm from the central heater at the conference hall in a resort on the Mountain at the Observatory area in Joborg, called the “cottages” these African journalists and women politicians went through a three-day workshop that started on a Monday and ended Wednesday.
The workshop was organised by Inter Press Services, an online medium that also focuses on women in politics.
Pat Made, the Inter Press Services (IPS) African Director, said the workshop was to provide dialogue between the media and women in politics and governance in Africa.
She said it was also to create awareness among the media of their responsibilities to make visible women, gender issues, HIV/AIDS, poverty and how they all related with women as a whole.
“The workshop is also to provide women in politics the know how in engaging the media”, Pat Made stated.
The seminar also focused on how the issue of violence against women and girls should be placed on the media and political agendas.
The practicum further seeks to discover how democracy is weakened when the media and women politicians shy away from issues of gender equality and women’s rights.
Jan Moolman from Women’s net, a South African programme that gets women actively involved with technology for their development, discussed extensively on “finding gender in the MDGs”
The key concept the workshop revolved around was the access of women in politics their representation and participation.
It was highlighted during the discussions that women often form a critical mass in the membership of political parties and as voters, but the power of their number was often leveraged by men to maintain power.
It also came clear that women’s access to local government seem to be less threatening than women’s access and participation in national government structures.
It was also revealed that the media and public often use different standards to hold women politicians more accountable than their male colleagues.
Interestingly also it was averred that “power removes women’s voices, because their accountability is often to the male leadership of their political parties.”
The female parliamentarians were given practical training on how to tackle the press and also bring out gender issues in the public platform.
This training was also to prepare them for a “meet the press session” were these women politician would be exposed to the South African press.