Children are often portrayed as victims in the media such that it is refreshing to come across an article that changes this perception. The article “First Xenophobia – then vicious floods” by The Star(05/02/2013, p14) offers an empowering account of Helder Bila, a 15-year-old boy from Mozambique who has experienced a lot of misfortunes in his young life. Media Monitoring Africa (MMA) applauds and awards a GLAD1 to The Star for a well written article which above anything portrays the child as a survivor and paints an empowering image of him.
Helder Bila is reported to have gone through terrible circumstances. The journalist details some of his experiences, from the time he was affected by the xenophobic attacks, resulting in him being forced to leave the Ramaphosa settlement near Johannesburg and return to Mozambique, to only be displaced after his home was destroyed by floods.
The journalist, Vuyo Mkhize, relates how Helder has assumed the role of man–of-the-house since his father’s death. He reportedly sells plastic wares at a nearby market to support his family.
The Star is commended for painting a positive picture out of a bad situation and portraying the child as a survivor. This is a laudable practice given that children like Helder, as revealed by MMA’s 2012 research findings, are often portrayed as victims.
The article in question ends on a positive note by giving Helder the opportunity to speak about his cooking skills. “I feel good…I can cook too you know! if my mother wasn’t cooking, I’d cook myself,” he states. The Star could have not chosen a better way to end the article, a quote showing that children can still lead a normal life despite the adverse conditions they face.
Showing children as resilient and rising above their adversities is the best practice that MMA strongly encourages. Not only does this portrayal empower other children but it instils hope and ultimately induces in them the strive to survive.
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”↩