The Zimbabwe National Council for the Welfare of Children (ZNCWC) in its efforts of advocating for the promotion, protection, fulfillment, respect and enjoyment of children’s rights in Zimbabwe and beyond, adopted a direct approach to engage the media.
By Maxim Murungweni and Bessie Siyado (ZNCWC)
The media (print, electronic and social media) has since time immemorial proven to be a powerful tool for advocacy.
The United Nations Convention on the rights of the child recognises the role of the media in the following articles: Article 17 recognises the specific role of the media; Article 13 the right to information; Article 13 and 14 the right to a voice and Article 16 the right to privacy. The media plays a crucial role in agenda setting and priming of messages in the child rights sector.
In an international study carried out in 2013 by Internews Europe, the following gaps were identified in efforts to understand how to harness the power of the traditional media and new media to amplify the voices of advocates and children, improve media coverage and transform child protection.
The research noted that there was exclusion of children’s voices from the public debate on child rights, lack of coverage, thus absence of meaningful, realistic and socially-relevant media coverage on child rights issues, lack of recognition of reporting on child rights and children’s issues as a specialised field, lack of rules and ethical guidelines on reporting child rights that are little-known and poorly-implemented. These findings have been used generally to help improve how children’s rights advocates engage the media the world over.
The research also made the following recommendations: create more youth journalists by training youth to produce radio programmes or run radio stations and creating youth media centres, establish incentives for journalists to specialise in child rights, including bespoke training, fellowships and awards for best reporting on child rights issues; improve civic society organisations-media networking through workshops, networks, field visits and training; establish and monitor guidelines for reporting child rights.
As such, from 2014, ZNCWC made direct engagement with media under the Amplifying the Voices of People Affected by HIV in Zimbabwe project, which is funded by Comic Relief with support from Voluntary Service Overseas. The project seeks to amplify child rights advocacy efforts so that they are given priority in the media and policy making.
The objectives of the project include:
lEquipping members of the print, electronic and social media with the right terminology on child-friendly reporting on sexual exploitation of children.
lUsing the media for widespread dissemination of the Young Women in Sexual Exploitation (YWSS) research findings.
lUsing media for critical analysis and debate of key child rights advocacy issues coming from the YWSS research findings.
lUsing media to publicise the policy position papers and monographs on key advocacy issues from the YWSS research findings.
lIncrease coverage of child rights issues in both print and electronic media.
lTo influence policies that prevent, protect and respond to the sexual exploitation of children in Zimbabwe.
In order to achieve the objectives of this project, the following activities have been carried out:
lTraining print, electronic and social media (journalists) on child sexual exploitation and children’s rights.
lExplaining in detail the YWSS research findings to journalists so that they are able to write detailed well-informed articles on sexual exploitation of children so as to influence public opinion and influence policy formulation
lPublish weekly newspaper articles on YWSS research findings and child rights policy advocacy issues
lSponsoring three awards for the Best Child Rights Reporter of the Year (print and electronic) and the Best Reporter on Sexual Exploitation of Children at the National Journalism and Media Awards organised by the Zimbabwe Union of Journalists.
lField visits with journalists.
The direct efforts at engaging the media have been successful in advocating for children’s rights in Zimbabwe. The media has responded positively in advocating for children’s rights. This is evidenced by the increased coverage of child rights issues, positive portrayal of children in the media and significant changes in policies such as abolishment of child marriages and corporal punishment.
An improved support for children’s rights by members of the public has been noted, as seen by the positive feedback received in the media. However, there is need to step up the engagement with the media and maintain the momentum gained so that the child rights agenda is not swallowed up by other issues that usually dominate the media space.
As ZNCWC, we are encouraged and happy with the efforts that the media in Zimbabwe is making towards the realisation, promotion, fulfillment and enjoyment of children’s rights in Zimbabwe. Let’s keep on working together for the best interest of the Zimbabwean child.