IOL receives a GLAD[1] from Media Monitoring Africa (MMA) for an article about a child star in which she is interviewed.

The article titled, “PIC: Self-taught Eastern Cape contortionist flexes her skills” (26/03/2021) is written by Robin-Lee Francke and is about 13-year-old Sesona Tshume who is a self-taught contortionist. The story reports that the child is able to showcase her physical flexibility without having had received any formal training. According to the article, the child taught herself the skill by looking at online videos.

Speaking to the journalist, the 13-year-old Sesona says, “I started contorting last year in July. I kept seeing YouTube videos and that encouraged me. I started practising every day for about 10 to 15 minutes. This is really something I would like to do. When I do contortions it makes me happy and I feel so relaxed. When I grow up I would like to be a YouTube contortionist or a doctor.”

The article is accompanied by a number of pictures where the child showcases her skills. As mentioned in the article, her dream is to find a trainer as there are no places in her area that will allow the child to go further with the sport.  

According to MMA’s Editorial Guidelines and Principles for Reporting on Children in the Media, “Images of children can be extremely powerful and have a significant impact on people.”[2] We applaud the journalist for using not one, but four powerful photographs of the child in action.

The journalist also did a good job interviewing the child in question and empowering her by relaying the story in a way that celebrates the child and portrays her in a positive light. Such efforts by the journalist could help South African media to improve in making children’s voices to be heard in coverage of them. This is because according to a recent media monitoring report by MMA, media stories on children that have children’s voices have decreased significantly. In 2016, children’s voices were heard in 12% of the stories in which they appeared. This reduced to 7% in 2020. With such efforts as those from the journalist, Robin-Lee Francke, we hope there will be an increase going forward.

MMA’s Editorial Guidelines and Principles for Reporting on Children in the Media state, “Children have a right to have their views heard on matters that affect them, so the media should try and include them.”  

The fact that the journalist interviewed the child and added pictures of her showcasing her skills enriches this article. Hopefully it also helps in getting relevant duty bearers to notice her skills so that she can get support and proper training, as per her wishes relayed in the article.

Well done, Robin-Lee Francke and IOL! MMA encourages you to continue giving a voice to children including those who are excelling especially when it is in their best interest.

By Msizi Mzolo

[1] A GLAD  is awarded to media for reporting about children in a positive way


The following is Robin-Lee Francke’s response to the commentary;

I am totally stunned by this and so thankful for considering me. 
I find doing stories/pieces on children deserve to have their voices heard. Too many times in society we are told: ‘a child is seen and not heard’, well I find this appalling, children are powerful and by seeing the world through their eyes so many things can change and many (even older persons) can be inspired by their unknowingly wise words.