Scientist and former president of Mauritius Ameenah Gurib-Fakim
Scientist and former president of Mauritius Ameenah Gurib-Fakim

Former president Gurib-Fakim: Africa must be served quality journalism

By Edwin Naidu Time of article published May 10, 2020

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The media in any country has a key role, and the extent to which the media is unfettered is symptomatic of how free a country is, according to former president of Mauritius Ameenah Gurib-Fakim, who also believes education is key to ending male domination.

The biodiversity scientist turned politician added that the media had a huge responsibility, particularly in the digital age, citing a phrase by legendary former editor of The Guardian Alan Rusbridger: “Truth lives in a gated community, while fake news or lies is spread around freely.”

Gurib-Fakim told the Sunday Independent via LinkedIn: “This is a dimension that needs to be reined in, as people’s lives have been destroyed through spreading false news which gets traction with the public while earnings are made via clicks,”

On the question of whether media was run by men, Gurib-Fakim, said while she had not paid much attention to gender in the media, what mattered was that whether a journalist was “good” or “bad” depended very much on the quality of the work produced. “His/her work will determine her/his credibility and responsibility,” she said.

Stereotyping and the objectification of women were red flags, Gurib-Fakim said. “That needs to be addressed if we want a more egalitarian society. Are we ready for change? All depends on the client, as well. If they want sensation, the paper sells and provides more. There’s no doubt that sensation sells.

“However, I think there’s space for quality journalism where facts are reported as such, columns dedicated for opinion and more culture and science reports on climate change, zoonotic diseases, etc. Africa must be served quality journalism,” said Gurib-Fakim.

Concerning leadership on a political level, she stated this week in an African Academy of Sciences newsletter: “When it comes to women’s leadership, we are all behind.”

As the sixth president of Mauritius, Gurib-Fakim, an eminent scholar, is also a fellow of the academy of chemical sciences and was one of 13 women out of 178 heads of state in the world during her tenure, from 2015 to 2018. On the continent, Gurib-Fakim and former president Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf of Liberia were the only women at the helm of their respective nations.

To rectify this situation, she said, the world’s leaders should empower women, adding that, science, technology and innovation (STI) had the power to disrupt and change the narrative, influencing all aspects of life, and not just those careers directly related to the sciences.

“It is through STI solutions that businesses and social enterprise can grow, and we can improve health outcomes, including the sexual and reproductive health that is so important to enable women and girls to determine their own destinies, provide clean energy, manage the environment and develop infrastructure.

“So we need to encourage all our young people, regardless of gender, to be full participants in driving an STI-based African future,” she said.

She added that while there were explicit and subtle factors preventing girls from pursuing careers in science and technology, since independence in Mauritius in 1976 the country had become a world leader in the number of women who received doctorates in science disciplines.

“But notwithstanding these impressive gains, the bad news is real, and it’s sobering. The gender gaps in education persist. This is evident in the fact that 16 million girls between the ages of 6 and 11 worldwide will, tragically, never start school, compared to 8 million boys.

“And the gap widens when one moves beyond education to factor in future jobs and earnings,” Gurib-

Fakim said.

The Sunday Independent

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