Yesterday, Zimbabwe joined the rest of the world in marking the International Day of the Girl Child. This is an international observance day declared by the United Nations; it is also called the Day of the Girl and the International Day of the Girl. October 11, 2012, was the first Day of the Girl. The observation supports more opportunity for girls and increases awareness of gender inequality faced by girls worldwide based upon their gender. This inequality includes areas such as right to education/access to education, nutrition, legal rights, medical care, and protection from discrimination, violence against women and child marriage. We publish here, a statement by PAIDAMOYO MUKOYI, the Girls Takeover Herald Editor

On this International Day of the Girl Child, I thought it is wise for us as the editorial team to reflect on how we can positively cover girls’ issues.My main wish is that we give girls space to express their views, concerns and challenges.It is worrying that men’s voices dominate the media space: as analysts, spokespersons or experts, but girls are very unlikely to be the central focus of news stories. If they are, they are victims of abuse or even death.

News stories are more likely to reinforce rather than challenge gender stereotypes. Gender stereotypes make girls weaker than boys, and men say girls should be confined to the domestic sphere.It is important to prioritise coverage of injustices to girls in their communities, but significant mention should also be accorded to girls’ success stories as motivation to others back home.

There are several achievements that girls in Zimbabwe are getting — notable achievements — defying odds, yet they go unmentioned and under-reported.There is definitely no meaningful, realistic and socially relevant news coverage or information flow on girls’ rights issues.

Sometimes lack of media ethics inhibit us to effectively capture girls’ challenges without denigrating them.Maybe these guidelines are little known and poorly implemented. We therefore must have refresher courses so that we promote our girls.The media must report on gaps in policy implementation on girls’ rights.

There is a lot of important unknown information about the constitutional ruling on child marriages recently pronounced by the Constitutional Court.Why are we not reporting about it?We should tell citizens what the ruling said so that child marriages stop.We should inform girls’ avenues of redress though our progressive reporting.

If we are going to hold Government to account, we need better evidence, and we need to use it more effectively: girls are “invisible” to policy-makers because they are not being counted or put in the spotlight.

But better representation of girls by girls is also vital to making the right kind of decisions and investments that can transform girls’ lives. There can be nothing for girls without girls.Transformative change also requires new ways of working. We need to involve everyone, and the private sector has just as much of a role to play here as NGOs.

What important questions should we ask these institutions that can bring solutions to the problems faced by girls?As the media, we are agents of socialisation and transformation. If we stop discriminating against the lines of gender, then communities will do likewise.The change starts here in the newsroom, championing female journalists and giving them space in the front pages of our paper.Those are small acts that elevate girls and women at large.

If the media, the CSOs and the girls themselves are empowered to provide credible and realistic information that is widely shared with and among citizens, educating people in society on the rights of girls and children in general, and the continued violations of their rights, then society will gain an understanding of appropriate standards of treating and protecting the next generation while putting pressure on Government to improve legal protection through laws and implementation of such laws.

Making girls visible, counted and powerful should start here, with us the media.

*Paidamoyo Mukoyi is a 17-year-old pupil from Epworth Secondary School who took over The Herald Editor’s Desk yesterday to commemorate the International Day of the Girl organised by Plan International.

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