The story “Sky is the limit for little Lesego” (Daily Sun, 03/03/2015) by journalist Simphiwe Mngomezulu has been recognised as a GLAD1 by Media Monitoring Africa (MMA). The journalist has given a child’s achievements due recognition and portrayed her in a positive manner.
The story is about a 13-year-old Lesego Sibalo from Daveyton, “who is being groomed to be the next Banyana Banyana star.” The article informs us how Lesego has received numerous awards and has been accepted by the University of Pretoria’s High Performance Centre” where future sports stars are developed.”
Although the popularity of women’s football is gradually increasing in the country, support for men’s soccer remains greater than that of women. Notably, by writing this story not only did Simphiwe challenge stereotypes on children but he also went beyond to challenge stereotypes based on gender, where we mostly see men excelling in soccer. The story has proven that girls like Lesego can do the same or even perform better than boys her age in soccer.
MMA guidelines2 for reporting on children encourage journalists to always strive to “Challenge gender-based stereotypes on children”. This exactly what the journalist did in the story.
Lesego was also interviewed and an image of her and family as well as the awards she has received was shown. In some cases journalists mainly focus on the people who are developing or mentoring the child to be successful, such as coaches and parents but fail to give young stars a voice. In such cases the story would be classified as a missed opportunity by MMA, because the journalist would have missed the opportunity to hear the child’s view on how he or she feels about being a young star. Therefore it is commendable that Simphiwe Mngomezulu had a child-centred approach to the story and promoted the child’s view and opinion.
The article even showed that the child does not only depend on soccer but also have options if things don’t work out with soccer, “I would like to help people by being a lawyer but if it doesn’t work out, it would be nice to also play for Banyana Banyana.”
This type of article plays an important role in empowering other girls to participate in soccer rather than seeing it as a men’s sport and it helps encourage them to not limit their abilities to participate and succeed in this sport. And most importantly, this challenges public perceptions of girls being unable to play soccer. MMA guidelines state “The way in which the media represents or even ignores children can influence decisions taken on their behalf, and how the rest of society regards children”.
This is a wonderful story by Daily Sun and Simphiwe Mngomezulu. We hope to see more of such stories in the future.
By Msizi Mzolo
1. On a weekly basis, MMA highlights cases of good practice, where the media has promoted the rights and welfare of children, otherwise referred to as “GLADs”, as well as instances where the rights and welfare of children have been compromised through irresponsible media coverage, referred to as “MADs”↩
2. See https://www.mediamonitoringafrica.org/images/uploads/mma_editorial_guideline.pdf↩