MEDIA AS DEFENDER OF THE GIRL-CHILD IN ZAMBIA
Defilement and adolescent pregnancy is considered as an emerging epidemic which required urgent solutions. This early pregnancy took a toll on a girl’s health, education and human rights and prevented her from realising her potential. Teenage pregnancy resulted in increased illiteracy levels among women, baby dumping, infanticide, higher numbers of street kids and stigmatisation, and given that most girls get married to much older men, early marriage renders them susceptible to physical, emotional and sexual abuse, as well as early widowhood, among others. Therefore, in 2013 Zambia launched a campaign against girl-child-marriage. The capacity of the media to be a watchdog, act as a voice for the voiceless, reach diverse audiences and influence people’s attitudes and behaviours cannot be doubted. However, in Zambia it is not clear how the media has been involved in this fight.
So the objective of this research is to find out how the media has been involved in protecting the girl-child from sexual abuse in Zambia. The study applied a qualitative method by conducting a content analysis of the textual material. The researcher analysed the Zambia Daily Mail and the Times of Zambia newspapers, special committee reports and special letters through social media. This research applied the purposeful/ judgemental sampling techniques because the researcher knew the target group. Basically it was the non-academic world which included the Zambian first ladies because they are the ones who are in the forefront against the girl-child sexual abuse, the United Nations, the National Assembly of Zambia, the Ministry of Gender and some Non-Governmental Organisations. Then two theories were used in guiding the researcher. These were the Muckraking Theory and the Ecology of News Model. This muckraking imagery implies that investigative journalists unearth evidence of a problem. The exposure of the problem leads to the mobilisation of a changed public opinion which leads to a ripple e˙ect in that legislators and administrators initiate a policy. Then the ecology of news model is a theory that says that the press and government actors exist in a ‘mutually constituted’ ecology in which, when interests merge, coalitions are formed. Consequently, the press and public oÿcials establish quid pro quo relationships so that they collaborate and work together to uproot this scourge.
The researcher undertook an analysis of the Special Committee Report for the 2014 National As-sembly of Zambia committee on youth and sport for the third session of the eleventh national assembly which carried out a research on the girl-child sexual abuse and how this could be brought to an end; analysed the programmes being implemented by Government, Cooperating Partners including the United Nations, and Civil Society Organisations to prevent and mitigate the e˙ects of teenage pregnancy in the country; analysed the speeches of the First Ladies and Minister through the Public Print Media on Child Marriages in Zambia; analysed the 2014 Media Brief by Panos Institute Southern Africa on ending child marriages in Zambia; analysed social media over the letters which were written by female pupils from Kasama Girls Secondary School and Chipembi Girls Secondary School. In all the e˙orts being undertaken to eradicate this scourge, the media is not mentioned as a stakeholder, but just reporting. Hence, the major role of the media in Zambia in fighting this scourge is by and large to expose girl-child abusers by reporting. The research concluded by making some recommendations of how the media can be involved in defending the girl-child other than just by reporting.