SHIKANDA KAWANGA, Harare
THE Regional Psychosocial Support Initiative (REPSSI) has noted that only about six percent of media coverage was focusing on children in most countries in southern Africa.
REPSSI communications marketing and events manager Nancy Chimhandamba said children were consumers of media products and hence there was need to promote their voices.
She said there is need for positive reporting on childrenâ€™s issues for the promotion of childrenâ€™s voices in the media to encourage their active participation in national development.
Ms Chimhandamba, who is based at REPSSI Head Office in South Africa, was speaking in an interview in Harare recently during a REPSSI two-day media training on children reporting attended by more than 20 journalists from Zambia and Zimbabwe.
Representatives from other organisations such as REPSSI Zambia, REPPSI Zimbabwe, Zimbabwe Union of Journalists (ZUJ) and Zimbabwe Media Monitoring Project (ZMMP) among others also attended.
Ms Chimhandamba noted that children are in the majority in most African countries, yet their voices were not being heard. â€œGone are the days when we said children must be seen and not heard. We are now in the phase where childrenâ€™s voices must be heard.
â€œThere is a lot that goes on that impact on children. As REPSSI, the reason we are having this workshop is to get journalists involved as advocates for childrenâ€™s rights,â€ Ms Chimhandamba said.
She noted that most of the reporting on matters of children were very negative and did not give a balanced view.
â€œAt the end of the day, it is important that there must be a voice of a child in whatever is reported,â€ she said.
Ms Chimhandamba urged the media to ensure that they got consent from the chidden and parents each time they were covering stories on children.
â€œThere are ways that the media can engage children so that the young ones know exactly what the media want them to comment on.
â€œWe need to invest in children now. When you invest in children now, you are investing in quality education and good economy for the future and ultimately, investing in productive citizens,â€ she said.
Ms Chimhandamba also dismissed assertions that stories on children could not sell the newspapers.
â€œChildren stories sell depending on how best you present them. It is about perception that children stories donâ€™t sell.
â€œAt a big event, journalists should bring out the angle on how a story will impact on children and talk to children to get their views,â€ said.
ZMMP director Patience Ziriwa called for the protection of children, especially when covering stories which would injure or damage their future.
Ms Ziriwa noted that almost all subjects of the news where children were quoted indicated that they were either victims of rape or defilement or assault or prostitution and not part of success stories.
ZUJ secretary-general Foster Dongozi urged the media to treat children as news sources and not victims of circumstances.
â€œIt is a mistake for the media to assume that children do not consume our media products. Children actually consume media products and they like more activities done by their fellow children so we need to involve them in our reporting,â€ Mr Dongozi said.
SHIKANDA KAWANGA, Harare