Her Zimbabwe gives voice to women’s issues through digital journalism

September 2, 2016

Since 2015, Hivos Southern Africa has been supporting Her Zimbabwe to augment its capacity to create and share content on gender and rights issues in alternative and engaging formats. Creating more media spaces to access information and share opinions through high-quality, independent journalism is important to Hivos. Freedom of speech is the main measure of openness in a society. Where there is room for alternative opinions and new voices, there is space for people with all their differences.

Women still constitute a minority in the media profession and news coverage in Zimbabwe. Little to no attention is paid to women’s voices in the mainstream media. Creating spaces where women’s stories are told and shared is critical to increasing women’s political participation and promoting equal rights for women. It also marks a significant step forward for citizens -men and women- to stay informed through fair news coverage, express an opinion freely and be involved in society.

Funding for Her Zimbabwe is provided by the Embassy of Kingdom of Netherlands (EKN) through the Human Rights Fund (HRF). The goal of the HRF is to improve the protection and promotion of human rights in Zimbabwe in a sustainable way through support to civil society organizations. The project is premised on the notion that human rights are the cornerstone of human dignity, freedom and development in a society, and form the basis for open and free societies all over the world.

Her Zimbabwe is an initiative founded in 2012 seeking to harness the potential of digital media to share and tell Zimbabwean women’s stories, as well as nurture young women’s digital activism. The internet provides space and opportunity to tell women’s stories in a manner that is not restrained by stereotypes and preconceived frameworks that stifle mainstream media from providing fair coverage of women’s issues.

Her Zimbabwe’s primary target audience is Zimbabwean women aged 20-35, although participation and contributions are accepted from women of all ages. Understanding that outcomes for women are increased by improving outcomes for society as a whole, Her Zimbabwe also targets men as a secondary audience. Women’s issues are interwoven with those of the men with whom they co-exist as partners, relatives, friends, or work colleagues. Hence, the Her Zimbabwe website also features a ‘His Zimbabwe’ section where men can express their opinions and standpoints on issues with respect to gender and equality.

With the continuous growth of online information sharing, new opportunities keep arising to broaden the scope and reach of the media landscape. Hivos supports individuals and organisations that use these opportunities to contribute to media diversity. As such, Hivos facilitates alternative information streams by making online content of local bloggers and citizen journalists –including media productions by and for marginalised groups–  accessible for the broader public and traditional media. This stimulus creates more diversity in the media landscape and offers citizens spaces where their voices can be heard.

Informed citizens are crucial, but information is worthless if it is biased, unchecked or censored. Stimulating high-quality journalism and independent news reporting by media organisations is, therefore, a key focal area of Hivos’ media policy. Through supporting Her Zimbabwe, Hivos aims to broaden people’s access to (sources of) information and create more spaces where citizens can inform themselves and raise their voices.