Internews’ Inclusive Media Project that trains journalists how to report on disability has increased and transformed coverage
By Temigunga Mahondo, Internews Media Trainer
Until just a few months ago, editors and journalists in Tanzania would usually ignore or relegate news items about people with disabilities because they thought such stories were of little interest to their audience. As a result, the lives and issues of disabled people went unreported and their activities, opinions, and ambitions were marginalized.
But then Internews launched its Inclusive Media Project in Tanzania that news professionals say has positively affected how people with disabilities are covered.
“In the past, we’d publish very few stories about people with disabilities and, if we did, it was all about charity and tragedies,” says Beatrice Bandawe, Managing Editor at the Nipashe Newspaper. “But now, because of the Internews training, we publish about 20 stories every month. Also, we’ve changed our approach: our journalists no longer focus on stigma or events. Instead, they cover issues that people with disabilities have generated themselves and that will help improve their lives.”
Some of the stories published include a disabled woman encouraging other people with disabilities to engage in income-generating activities, a Deaf woman teaching family members sign language, and a feature story about affordable government loans that are enabling people with disabilities in Shinyanga to achieve their goals.
A story in Nipashe News by Cristina Haule that covered how a Maasai villager donated cattle to people with disabilities resulted in more Maasai donating livestock to centers that assist disabled people with employment.
The improved coverage has also helped reduce stigma and discrimination in local communities. “At some places I visited, people would think a child or relative with a disability was a curse, but now that misperception is fading away,” says Felister Richard at CFM radio station in Dodoma. “Even in some of the remotest villages, I’ve noticed improvements in inclusiveness. In the past, such things were unheard of.”
Stahimili Mwinuka who has a physical disability says, “The media have recognized the significance of reporting on people like me. Positive stories are having a positive impact on our lives.”
Inclusive Media is a two-year project supporting and empowering journalists in key countries in Sub-Saharan Africa to increase and improve their coverage of disability issues, presenting disability issues in a way that promotes the dignity of PWD as well as amplifying their own voices and perspectives.