Media Monitoring Africa (MMA) is giving a GLAD[1] to the Saturday Citizen newspaper for an image titled, “Strength in numbers” (21/09/19, p.6) which portrays the children involved as active participants in democratic activities.

The image’s caption reads, “Children from Mimosa pre-primary take part in the global general strike, along with more than a million children in New York, as well as climate activists around the world, yesterday. The strike is expected to be the biggest day of climate strikes in history. It is organised by school pupils with 16-year-old Greta Thunberg leading the demonstrations.” The photograph taken by Tracy Lee Stark shows children holding placards challenging society about the crucial importance of saving “our planet”.

In the weeks leading to the United Nations Climate Action Summit of 2019 and after, the issue of climate change made a lot of news with citizens, some world leaders and NGOs across the world taking an interest in finding solutions. In the past, news about climate change would often exclude children but this changed this year when a group of children organised protests and spoke at the UN Summit. While all this was international, Saturday Citizen, by featuring the image, showed that South African children were not and could not be left out of the agenda.

Photographer, Tracy Lee Stark shows us in her photograph that children, even those in pre-primary school, can also be active citizens by getting involved in international issues that affect them and threaten their futures.

In addition, the children are perfectly pictured right in the centre of the photograph at an angle that makes them appear powerful. The fact that there is no adult in the picture giving the children instructions also makes the children appear empowered.

According to MMA’s 2017 media monitoring report,[2] the top main topics related to children in the media are crime and justice system at 18% and 14% respectively. Therefore, to have such an image portraying children as young activists is a breakaway from what seems to have become a standard of reporting on children in the media in terms of topics.

MMA applauds the photographer as well as Saturday Citizen for going against the norm of portrayal of children in the media and instead showing them positively. We strongly recommend that other media emulate this.

By Jacques Ndong

[1] GLAD’s are awarded to media for reporting on children responsibly and for accessing them