Boitumelo Mofokeng, South Africa

3 October 2005

Nearly eleven years in to our democracy in South Africa, millions of historically disadvantaged are still waiting to see "Freedom" come their way and deliver basic services, housing, water, sanitary, health and the list goes on. Millions of these are women who head households in the rural areas, still without electricity, tele communications, basic health, etc. They know about the new government but have not yet felt its impact on their lives. Economic and gender violence still continues and they are forever victims of a slow granding machine called democracy!

 A simple analysis that doesn't require a scientist sheds light on why after ten years of democracy, women are still at the bottom and seemingly still disadvantaged especialy in the country that never experienced civil war compared to others neighbours in our continent.

I look back today and conclude that a "civil war that would permanently destroy the mind" of the oppressed masses was declared on my people - no education, basic literacy and numeracy  and access to information or media except for proaganda our elders were fed about the appartheid regime.

A door shut in your face never to learn anything but labourer's skills was a curse on a people with such a big heart for forgiveness. If women could read, write and teach formal and informal education, manage and own media with editorial rights, maybe we would not even be discussing the whether or nots of gender quotas. It would be a way of life for men to accept women's leadership qualities, strategic thinking and compromise is not a weakness but a tool to be used in the most responsible way.

I ask myself, if women owned half the media in the world, what stories would we be telling and how these would be educational and empowering to women. I have seen and continue to see women's columns of major newspapers still profiling women in a stereotypical way, functioning as if there's no Gender Commssion, UNIFEM, etc.

Media for me is a tool that we need to advance our cause. At the Women Waging Peace launch in 1999, country delegates were asked to include at least on media person (woman) in the ten woman group. It worked because the emdia group shared strategies on how to use the media to advance women's agenda including peace building.

If non-profit and community based organsiation budgetted for media and poublicity of their work, more women and decision makers would be feeling the wind of change. Women would be multiplying their voices through the power of the media, they would be causing revolution of knowledge - bloodless revolution!

Prior to SA reform, liberation movements had the most powerful underground communication strategies that kept people abreast of real issues, why does this change when democracy dawns?

Is democarcy a lullaby to put us to deep sleep to forget the other half of our own and work against the gains of the women's struggle worldwide? Why are we still fighting for space to have our voices heard? Do we need quotas to secure us a place in the centre stage of policy makers?

We do, the other half needs to be liberated - the nations might be liberated but the men folk still need to be liberated and since nruturing is not in their blood, enforcement through quotas might make sense to them but we need to continue verbalizing these policies, resolutions and gains.

How can Americans fight dark money and disinformation?

Violence, corruption and cynicism threaten America's flagging democracy. Joe Biden has promised to revive it – but can his new administration stem the flow of online disinformation and shady political financing that has eroded the trust of many US voters?

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Emily Bell Leonard Tow Professor of Journalism and director, Tow Center for Digital Journalism, Columbia Journalism School

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