Female Zim human rights defenders assess media coverage

Top female Zimbabwean human rights defenders criticized coverage of women working to promote and defend human rights and challenged media to see themselves as partners in the fight for democracy and eradication of patriarchal stereotypes against women.  These female human rights defenders included Beatrice Mtetwa, a human rights lawyer, Irene Petras, director of the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) and Virginia Muwangiwa, Chairperson of the Women’s Coalition of Zimbabwe were speaking at an event, an initiative of the Women Journalism Mentoring Program (WJMP) implemented jointly by the United States Embassy and the Humanitarian Information Facilitation Centre (HIFC).

The three panelists were unanimous in calling on the media to be ethical, fair and balanced about the work of women human rights defenders, to contribute to democratization and social economic justice issues. They criticized what they considered superficial coverage of women generally and women working in the field of human rights specifically.

“There is a lot terrible character- assassination of women human rights defenders,” Irene Petras, told participants at the event held on the 12 July 2012. “Even the abuse that they face in their professional work is very gender-specific.  There is a lot of verbal abuse and character assassination which specifically goes to the gender issue, in addition to being exposed to much more in terms of violations such as sexual harassment and rape,” she said.

Petras went on to say “Any media practitioner who is looking at any women human rights defender who is doing their work needs not just to start with what they are doing on a daily basis, but all those challenges that they have to put up with everyday just by virtue of being a woman in the human rights movement.”

Read the full report at: http://harare.usembassy.gov/female_hrd.html

Kudos to these women for challenging the media for biased reporting of women who are fighting for equality and eradication of patriarchal stereotypes of women.


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