NAW | ON THE COVER
well as greater openness and accountability. If I didn’t do that, it would be a personal failing on my part. So I have to make a call to action, no matter how small.
Like people always said to me when I used to travel and cover the continent, “but CNN always tells one story about Africa and it is always negative”. I would say back then, it is actually nuanced – it’s both the good and the bad. But increasingly, that has shrunk and attention has become more limited because most of it has gone to Trump, but back in the day there was a greater balance of stories. Still on media, let’s talk about how women are portrayed, more so the objectification and sexualisation of women on TV, adverts, music video film, etc. And also reducing female talent to just beautiful faces on telly. What is your experience and your view on this one? I mean it is a bit like in the fashion industry, where a lot of designers are male, so when they are designing they do so with a completely unrealistic view of the female body. As long as men continue to dominate and control the levers of power in these industries, they control what goes out – the imagery and everything. The solution lies in having more women control what goes out there. You can tell when and where a woman has written the story or is behind the camera or editing a script, because when we do so, our brains and our minds are encapsulated into the narrative, it’s not about our looks.
But when men are the portrayers of women, it of course becomes one-dimensional. So for example if a male advertising executive wants to sell burgers, he uses a bunch of naked women and the culture around it allows that to be acceptable.
However, the bottom line is that we need to change our expectations as consumers, and as women we need
WHAT I WOULD LIKE TO SEE IS FOR AFRICAN GOVERNMENTS TO CREATE ENVIRONMENTS THAT ALLOW MEDIA TO OPERATE FREELY WITHOUT FEAR OR INTERFERENCE
to raise our standards and object more and simply stop being willing participants in the sexualisation and objectification of women in the media.
We also need to start teaching our girls early in life that they are not sexual beings, that they are intelligent, strong and do not have to be docile, quiet and subservient to anyone. Instil in them a sense of self-worth from a young age and tell them that they can be whom they want to be. And also it is crucial that men and boys are respectful to women and see the world as multi-dimensional. The past year has been a big year with the #MeToo #TimeIsUp campaign. The issues raised affect African women as well, but not much noise comes out of there. What is your view on the “unspoken” Africa’s #MeToo movements? Look, the reason why the #MeToo movement was able to break in the US is because women who had more economic power were able to come out and break the silence. But many women who feared they would never work again did not come out and have suffered for a long time.
In Africa most women do not speak out because again it comes down to their economic disempowerment. What is the cost of speaking out? There are just no environments to even support them if they did.
But even where an African woman who has economic independence and power chooses to speak out, does the environment around her support her speaking out? Would her community rally behind her and support her? It is very common in Africa to blame the woman, like “well, she is the one who led him on”. It is also a fact that in most of Africa, the societies are very patriarchal.
Therefore on this issue, the environment African women operate in is markedly different from the one in the US where the courts and the police will operate with independence, objectivity and impartiality. And they will not give or get favours from someone who is rich. But you can’t guarantee that to a woman in most parts of Africa.
I am convinced that many African women want to speak out, but look at the environment around them – from the home, the police to the courts of law – who will pick them up and support them all the way? Before we discuss your project, We Can Lead, let’s touch on the book you are writing and is due out in 2019. I hear it is about your passion and the experiences you had covering the abducted Chibok girls in Nigeria, a move I also hear ruffled some feathers in that country. Tell us more, what’s going on? Yes, I have made some public enemies
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