Prioritize girl child issues when performing the agenda setting role – UMWA appeals to the media

By Sierra Ruth Arinaitwe

The Board Chairperson of the Uganda Media Women’s Association (UMWA) Dr. Patricia Litho  has appealed to the media to prioritize girl child related issues while performing its agenda setting role.

Dr. Litho said the media is known for its ability to influence the importance placed on topics for the public agenda. ” The media is recognized for the substantive progress made in reporting- on girl child issues such as teenage pregnancy, defilement and early marriages , however, there are still persistent gaps of imbalanced and irresponsive gender-based issue reporting,” She noted .

Dr. Litho said that conservations about the girl child issues are in most cases held during commemoration days such as the women’s day- yet the concerns relating to these issues occur all the time. This was during a discussion on the role of the media in protecting the girl child at the National Symposium on the welfare and wellbeing of the  girl child.

Dr. Litho talking to media practitioners

According to Dr. Litho, the media plays an important role of mobilizing against unfair practices against the girl child by getting the duty bearers to account for how they are addressing the challenges and what mechanisms  they are putting in place to curb the vices.

She therefore ,urged the media to continuously highlight the laws against against violations of girls and aspects of their  wellbeing- such as the  right to education, health, food, security, social protection among others. Dr. Litho  noted that when girls are not accorded the basic essentials of life -their parents are lured to have such vulnerable children settle for early marriages.

“Use media to further tackle every character associated with girl child issues including the boys and the parent’s role in ending child marriages and not just concentrating on the girl child- who is usually strongly victimized,” Dr. Litho stressed.

Ms. Margaret Sentamu, the Executive Director of UMWA said  that victimization from irresponsible reporting by the media increases emotional violence for the victims. This is propelled by media related laws which she described as being gender irresponsive thus giving room for the  media -to stereotypically report on gender-based violence without accountability being sought by the regulator.

Ms. Margaret Sentamu, the Executive Director of UMWA

“There is also an issue of gender insensitive journalists which can be overcome by retooling media training through capacity building and reviewing the media training curriculum -which lack gender studies as a means of drawing journalists’ attention to equity and promoting social justice.”

She called upon the development partners to build partnerships and support the role required of the media by taking up capacity building interventions around gender-based violence reporting, research and gender media monitoring and partnerships with CSOs.

“Whereas media is vitally needed in efforts to protect the girl child, it is urgent for development partners  to recognizing that apart from using the media as a tool  for their programmes’ publicity- its rather a key partner towards shaping positive social narratives against GBV, girl child empowerment and social justice advocacy.”

Dr. Litho highlighted the need for mainstream media to use the advantage of the diverse media platforms especially social media which is largely used by the youth  as a means of  communication -to address issues that affect them such as teenage pregnancies and child marriages.

“Most teenagers prefer social media to reading newspapers and watching news. My humble appeal to the mainstream media is to use their social media platforms to package the messages about girl child issues in a captivating way – for the young people to understand and cause change.” she said while  citing UMWA and Mama FM among the media outlets that offer  platforms for  girls and the  voiceless to speak out.

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