Friday, 21 November 2014 00:00

Women's participation starts in the home, says News Editor

Despite social and economic progress, women are still alarmingly underrepresented in politics and public debate in Ghana. During a public forum, held to come up with policy recommendations to increase women’s visibility and influence, we asked Dzifa Bampoh, News Editor at popular radio station Joy FM, about her views on how to get women involved.

Women constitute more than half the population in Ghana, yet their voices are mostly silent when it comes to influencing the public debate. A monitoring report by IBIS’ partner Media Foundation for West Africa conducted between June and August 2014 reveals that less than 8% of political party representatives speaking on Ghanaian radio were women, and less than 20% of all individuals participating in radio discussions were female. 

Speaking at a public forum under the title “Media and Women’s Participation in Public Discourse in Ghana” in Accra, several influential women spoke about the challenges of getting women in the media. We asked News Editor Dzifa Bampoh from Joy FM about how and why we need more Ghanaian women in the media.

Why is it important to get more women in the media?

"The world is not made only of men. Women also have opinions and they may be different from those of men and we need to give them the chance to be heard."

Some people argue that women’s traditional role is to be in charge of the home and that they should stick to that role. What do you say to this argument? 

"There are very strong social forces that prevent women from taking the lead and coming forward in the public space. But the reality is that women have been leading for a long time too – they are leaders in their churches and they are leaders in their homes and of their families. In Ghana we have the “ohene”, the “kings” and they are sometimes women, so it is not exactly a contradiction to see women in the public space. But we have not encouraged women to come out and speak up. They often feel that it is their actions that must speak for themselves. But in this modern, digital age we are in, you have to be public about what you are doing. So we have to tell the women to come forward and show us what they are doing and share their opinion about issues that matter."

What are the biggest obstacles to getting more women in the media?

"Many radio talk shows are in the evening and that clashes with some of the responsibilities that women have, like taking care of children and cooking. But we try to accommodate that by sometimes prerecording interviews. Also, there is sometimes the perception of a lack of expertise in an area. Let’s say you are doing a show about oil and gas and you have to find a woman who knows about that. It can be a real challenge, so you call a person you know is an expert in that field and most of the times that is a man. 

"I think political parties need to lobby for women who are good speakers and who are knowledgeable in their field to participate in public debates. All it takes is one chance, and if you put your best foot forward, I will bet you, the media houses will call you time and again.


What is needed to get more women to participate in the public debate?

"Women need to reach out more. Go to the media houses and introduce yourself. Let them know the issues you are interested in so that you will be in the back of their mind. Very often, we will give a woman a chance before a man. We, the media, also need to develop a better database of women but we can’t do it alone. We need to collaborate with the women’s movement as well, so there is still some road to travel. 

"As for the women, I will say: Don’t be shy! If you listen to a show which you feel didn’t give the full story just call and say, “you know, I also have a view on this subject.” And you will be surprised as to how often we will invite that person to come and participate in a show. That way you start to build a relationship and even if you don’t have time that evening, at least we know that you are available and willing to participate in the debate.


What can civil society do to help further the participation of women in the media?

"Civil society has been doing a lot of work and has invested a lot of money in women but at the end of the day, it starts in the home. We need to encourage our women to aspire to become better than people think they can be. Once families realise that putting women in leadership positions is good for all of us, they will do it. We have not given them a good reason to think that way, and I think it is still a work in progress but I think Ghana has come very far.


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