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Tuesday, June 6, 2006

The International Women's Media Foundation (IWMF) will host a meeting in Johannesburg in July to report on its ground-breaking project to enhance the quality and consistency of reporting on HIV/AIDS, TB and malaria. African journalists, editors and non-governmental organizations have been invited to participate in discussions about the project, which is known as Maisha Yetu (“Our Lives” in Swahili).

Maisha Yetu was launched in 2002 with a grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Writing for Our Lives , a publication documenting the project, will be released at the meeting.

The first phase of the project -- documented in the IWMF publication Deadline for Health -- focused on qualitative and quantitative research on how the media cover HIV/AIDS, TB and malaria in Cameroon, Botswana, Kenya, Senegal and Malawi.

The second phase of Maisha Yetu was launched in September 2004 with the goal of turning research into practical, sustainable measures that will help African media improve their coverage of HIV/AIDS, TB and malaria. For the second phase, the IWMF decided to partner with “Centers of Excellence,” six print and broadcast media houses in three countries, and work with them to develop models for health reporting. Botswana , Kenya and Senegal were chosen because of their regional diversity and because they have different media environments and diverse health profiles.

“Maisha Yetu has produced a revolutionary model for health care reporting,” said Jane Ransom, IWMF Executive Director. “Working with trainers from Botswana , Kenya and Senegal , Maisha Yetu has brought new theories and practices directly into the newsrooms of our media house partners. It has encouraged networking, increased depth of reporting, expanded mentoring and generally changed institutions. Furthermore, the work being done is replicable in other media houses.”

The Maisha Yetu project recognises the important role African media play in tackling public health issues. According to the introduction of Writing for Our Lives , “The continent of Africa bears the largest human burden of the HIV/AIDS pandemic. In the absence of a cure for AIDS, accurate and relevant messages on prevention, care and support are necessary to reduce prevailing stigma and bring about behavior change. Information about malaria drug policies and TB treatment strategies can save lives – if people know about them.”

The Maisha Yetu “Centers of Excellence” are:

  • Botswana -- government-owned Botswana Broadcasting Services and privately owned Mmegi newspaper.
  • Kenya – privately owned Nation and Standard media groups, both of which include print and electronic media.
  • Senegal – government owned Le Soleil newspaper and privately owned Sud FM radio.

Aulora Stally, based in Harare , was Maisha Yetu project manager. Stally identified experienced health and science reporters who became local trainers in each country. In collaboration with the trainers, she then designed individual plans to move Maisha Yetu into newsrooms, based on each country's and each media house's needs. Between March 2005 and March 2006, the Centers of Excellence held more than 20 skills-building workshops. The training was designed to link HIV/AIDS, TB and malaria to wider social and development issues, as well as to provide journalists with the basic skills they need to cover health. Women comprised at least half of participants in these workshops. Newsroom managers and journalists from beats other than health were also encouraged to attend workshops in an effort to spread health reporting to other news areas, such as economics, politics and features.

The IWMF was launched in 1990; its mission is to strengthen the role of women in the news media worldwide. The IWMF network includes more than 1,500 women and men in the media in more than 130 countries worldwide. For more information on IWMF programmes and projects, visit www.iwmf.org .

For media queries (English) contact:

Paula Fray or Fikile Nkambule

Tel: 27-11-341-0767
Fax: 27-11-325-2631
Cell: 073-176-8960

For media queries (French) contact:

Bate Felix

Tel: 27-11-341-0767
Fax: 27-11-325-2631
Cell: 072-313-4459
Email: fbate@paulafray.com

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