An article titled “She bends it like Beckham” (Mail & Guardian, 5-11/08/2016, p.11) has been selected for a GLAD[1] for its positive portrayal of a child and accessing of her views.

The article profiles 12-year-old Erin Marney who narrates her story to the journalist, Pontsho Pilane. Erin has been playing soccer at her school for four years and says she works hard at her skills by practising at school and home. “It’s not easy playing soccer when you are a girl. It means that some kids at school will say silly things, especially the boys. They have teased me about playing soccer. They say things like “girls can’t play soccer”. I laugh at them because I can and the other girls on my team can as well, and I could beat all of them. They are just jealous that girls can do the same things that they can.”

Mail & Guardian should be commended for shining the spotlight on a young child challenging gender-stereotypes and for highlighting her achievements including how she walked away with two awards (one for being the best player) at a prize giving ceremony held at her school.

With so little reporting on children in the news, especially when most of it is negative, we as Media Monitoring Africa (MMA) are delighted when we come across an article such as this one. MMA’s 2015 media monitoring findings[2]  show that children only feature in about  eight percent of news in the media and that they are mostly portrayed in roles that do not highlight their individual ability or agency 40 percent of the time and that when they are assigned distinct roles in news, they are mostly negative portrayals such as ‘victim’. The same report shows that only nine percent of the coverage accessed children during the monitoring period.

When a child is portrayed positively and is accessed in a story, it not only challenges the stereotypical way they are seen in society but also promotes their right to participation. Children need to participate in the media as it enhances their decision-making skills. Further to this, giving children a voice enriches the story with their perspective.

When asked to comment on the story, a child media monitor from Parkhurst Primary School, Atang Kgwathisi said that he was happy with the way the child was portrayed in the story. “The journalist did a good job interviewing the child and including a positive picture of her.”

MMA is pleased with Mail & Guardian’s reporting and it is our hope that such stories will appear more across all media. Well done!

By Lister Namumba-Rikhotso

[1] We are GLAD about articles that responsibly report on children at the same time protecting and promoting their rights



The journalist responded to the commentary saying;

Pontsho Pilane

Thank you for letting me know.