Media Monitoring Africa (MMA) is pleased with The New Age newspaper’s decision to run an Inter-Press Service (IPS) story – “Hunger in Niger reaches epidemic proportions” (6/02/2012, p. 16), nominating it for a GLAD as part of MMA’s MADOAT project. What makes this article good is that it steered away from the norm and avoided publishing stereotypical images of starving and helpless children and women, using instead an image of women and children carrying water.
Media coverage of famine and food crises on the African continent often comes with stereotypical images of malnourished, emaciated children and sometimes women; a trend recently analysed in an MMA report. From the point of view of media practitioners, reporting on the recurring and seemingly continuous presence of famine in some African countries is difficult to do in such a way that maintains the interest of the public. Such reporting also often points out the statistics of famine, but rarely highlights the day-to-day effects that food insecurity has on people, particularly women who as mothers feel one of their roles is to ensure they can feed the family. This becomes especially difficult when the women’s partners leave home in search of employment, leaving the women to head the household on their own.
The article reported on the issue of food insecurity through a gender lens and provided insight into its effect on women. It said: “Women have been left in charge of many of the households in the village of Zamkoye-Koïra, in Western Niger, as food shortages have driven male family members to leave in search of work.”
Women and children are often voiceless sources, rarely quoted in stories, directly or indirectly. This article, however, gave a mother of eight the opportunity to voice her concerns. The 40-year-old Bibata Mounkaïla said: “The men have gone to look for a way to feed the women and children left behind in the village, because there was no harvest at all this year […] We’ve eaten only once a day for several months […] The situation also means that our children are no longer going to school – the nearest one is in a neighbouring village, 3km from here.”
MMA strongly encourages journalists to give women and children a voice by accessing them as sources in media reporting, especially on issues that evidently affect them.