Monday, September 10, 2007

Malawi, Zambia and Mauritius win inaugural gender and HIV/AIDs awards

By Rebecca Wanjiku
Malawi, Zambia and Mauritius yesterday won the inaugural gender and HIV/AIDs awards, in recognition of their exemplary work place policies.

The awards were judged through peer review and targeted 218 newsrooms in the southern Africa region.

Malawi Broadcasting Corporation (MBC) won the HIV/AIDs category; Times of Zambia was runners up. In the gender policy category, Mauritius Broadcasting Corporation (MBC) scooped top honours while the Malawi Broadcasting Corporation took the runners up position.

Organised by Gender Links and several regional organisations, the awards sought to initiate a process where the media houses in the region will develop and implement policies and commit resources to implement them.

“We all know that the media has not produced gender and HIV/AIDs policies. But how do you change an institution without putting your neck on the line? The awards seek to recognise media houses in the region willing to sacrifice and implement such policies,” said Colleen Lowe Morna, head of Gender Links.

While citing scanty statistics of HIV/AIDs reportage in the media, Morna added that the awards are critical in showing other media houses in the region how to implement their policies and improve the quality and quantity of stories.

The awards were organised in conjunction with the Sol Plaatje leadership Institute which is dedicated to training media managers in Africa .

“We would have liked more entries and we hope to receive more last year. It was inspiring to see that most applicants also presented the actual policies and implementation plans, which validated their claims,” said Francis Mdlongwa, head of the institute.

The awards are targeting 80 per cent of Southern Africa newsrooms by 2008 and it is hoped that reporting of gender and HIV/AIDs issues will also improve. It is also projected that more media houses will implement policies to support national, regional and international legal instruments.

Speaking on behalf of the judging panel Mdlongwa said the winners, had committed resources to ensure that policies were understood and complemented through a series of policies. In Mauritius , it was noted that MBC had appointed a gender coordinator who made monthly reports to the head of MBC.

The award ceremony was spiced up by music from Nia band, which embodied the true spirit of Africa with representatives from Kenya , Zambia and South Africa . Participants were treated to songs in Swahili, Xhosa and English.

As the ceremony drew to a close, Morna encouraged participants to dance to the famous song “Vulindlela” which is Xhosa for “open the way”. The song was sung by the late South African musician Brenda Fassie.

The song was symbolic for the winners, expected to open or lead the way for other regional media houses.