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OPINION: The misrepresentation of feminists in the Ghanaian media and why it must stop!

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Until a month ago, I was scared to look up the meaning of feminism because of how those who identified as feminists were constantly been attacked on social media and represented in the media.

The statement “I am a feminist” has become synonymous to the statement “I hate men.” It’s become a widely spread belief that feminism represents the idea of switching the power structure so that men are on the bottom and women are on the top; however, this is a common misconception in the Ghanaian society.

Over the past weeks, I challenged myself to ignore all the misconceptions and contradictions surrounding the feminism ideology in Ghana and research from the bottom. What I found were the underpinnings that led to such representation.

FEMINISM IN GHANA

The definition of feminism and what it means to a group of people or region has also been very controversial. In Africa, feminism has been received with mixed feelings leading to the proposal of alternative terms and definitions in a bid to clearly define the struggle of African women.

In Ghana, feminism has received considerable attention from women in various sectors (academic, social, political and professional) of the country and in different ways. This is because the struggles to liberate women from oppressive situations have taken various forms.

Feminism and feminists have come under considerable attack over the past years but grew more in the Ghanaian society in 2017, 2018 and 2019. These attacks have included misrepresentations of feminists as bra burners, and men hating harridans who see men as perpetrators and women as passive victims; they have included charges that men are under threat because of advances in women’s rights.

Decades ago, advocacy for feminism in Ghana started through literature where writers like Ama Attah Aidoo and other female writers wrote stories that challenged the societal roles assigned to women. In recent times through the rise in social media use, feminism activism took a new turn.

Over the last 2 years, Pepper Dem Ministries, a vocal movement of feminists has been ‘flipping the script’ on social media, to the admiration and condemnation of many. By flipping the script, Pepper Dem Ministries and its supporters replace men in oversimplified roles women are expected to play and vice versa which is clearly the wrong way for fighting for women.

GHANAIAN MEDIA AND FEMINIST PRESENTATION

The media and society are interconnected; levels of understanding various social constructs influence media contents, meanwhile, media platforms and contents impact social and day-to-day practices. The media plays an important role in the decision-making framework which is a behavioral change and in opinion formation which is observable behavior. A person closely monitoring media consumption is not immune to media effects.

The nature of feminist representation to the Ghanaian audience mostly takes place in the new media i.e. online and social media.

Most online written stories about the Pepper Dem Ministries gives a clearer picture of how the society sees feminists.

With headlines such as “Pepper Dem Ministries ladies unkept, unintelligent with smelly hair”, “Members Of Pepper Dem Ministries are suffering from mental disorder”, “You’re a disgrace to your families” among others, the media influences the minds of young girls and females who seek to learn about the ideas and ideal of feminism and also men who support these ideals.

This may have to do with male domination in media. Media gate-keeping practices from ownership, sponsorship, editorial, production, presentation, guest, etc. are mainly done by the men. Where there is an imbalance of gender participation in the media landscape, the least presented group (women) suffer the more.

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The religious prejudices women face where Holy Scriptures and religious teachings are used as tools to make them submissive and the questions raised on their psychological state of mind as they are considered too emotional or vulnerable are some excuses used to fight feminist ideas.

THE NEED FOR CHANGE

The news media influence what people know and, sometimes, what they think about an issue. This impact, in turn, determines human actions, reactions, and behaviors regarding the issue and this is very evident as fewer people refuse to self-educate on issues and solely rely on the media.

The representation of feminists by the media to the society and the behaviors of the society towards feminists clearly shows that men are unwilling to share the power they hold for being top of the social hierarchy with women. It also shows that society is willing to make women evermore submissive and not ready to support any feminist agenda that pushes against patriarchy.

The effects of these actions on society are quite alarming as fewer women fight for equal rights and responsibilities and suffer at the hands of patriarchy. Some good ideas of feminist groups/feminists that can increase women’s participation in all sectors of the country are easily disregarded.

Whiles some countries and societies have made much progress in disregarding patriarchy as being natural and fixed but rather seeing them as social and cultural constructions for women and have changed in their direction of gender equality, Ghana is yet to make these changes.

It is therefore of critical importance that the media helps to build and sustain women’s movements so that women may address unequal relations of power within society. There is a need to take up new struggles around depoliticizing feminist concepts and bring an end to the misrepresentation of feminist groups to guard gains they may have already won.

SUPPORT TRUE FEMINISM

Truth is, some individual feminists hate men. A lot of feminists might hate men. You might even argue based on what you find on the internet that most feminists hate men. But that’s irrelevant because man-hating isn’t a part of true feminist goals!

What matters is that feminism, distilled down to its absolute core, is about gender equity. The goal of feminism is to create a society in which individuals’ genders don’t restrict them from an equitable shot at success and happiness and the media needs to promote more of these reasonable feminists ideals.

Does the media want to keep whining about how “feminists hate men” and distract their audience and others from serious issues of inequality?

Do you want to blindly follow what is represented to you in the media without making personal research to change your misconceptions about feminism?

Your Call!!!!

By Jacqueline Johnson Quaye, a one-month-old feminist!!!

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Today, Meta announced that it has built and open sourced ‘No Language Left Behind’ NLLB-200, a single AI model that is the first to translate across 200 different languages, including 55 African languages with state-of-the-art results. Meta is using the modelling techniques and learnings from the project to improve and extend translations on Facebook, Instagram, and Wikipedia.

 

In an effort to develop high-quality machine translation capabilities for most of the world’s low-resource languages, this single AI model was designed with a focus on African languages. They are challenging from a machine translation perspective. AI models require lots and lots of data to help them learn, and there’s not a lot of human translated training data for these languages. For example, there’s more than 20M people who speak and write in Luganda but examples of this written language are extremely difficult to find on the internet.

 

We worked with professional translators for each of these languages to develop a reliable benchmark which can automatically assess translation quality for many low-resource languages. We also work with professional translators to do human evaluation too, meaning people who speak the languages natively evaluate what the AI produced. The reality is that a handful of languages dominate the web, so only a fraction of the world can access content and contribute to the web in their own language. We want to change this by creating more inclusive machine translations systems – ones that unlock access to the web for the more than 4B people around the world that are currently excluded because they do not speak one of the few languages content is available in.

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“It’s impressive how much AI is improving all of our services. We just open-sourced an AI model we built that can translate across 200 different languages — many of which aren’t supported by current translation systems. We call this project No Language Left Behind, and the AI modelling techniques we used are helping make high quality translations for languages spoken by billions of people around the world. To give a sense of the scale, the 200-language model has over 50 billion parameters, and we trained it using our new Research SuperCluster, which is one of the world’s fastest AI supercomputers. The advances here will enable more than 25 billion translations every day across our apps. Communicating across languages is one superpower that AI provides, but as we keep advancing our AI work it’s improving everything we do — from showing the most interesting content on Facebook and Instagram, to recommending more relevant ads, to keeping our services safe for everyone,” said Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg in a post on his Facebook profile.

 

Language is our culture, identity, and lifeline to the world. However, as high-quality translation tools don’t exist for hundreds of languages, billions of people today can’t access digital content or participate fully in conversations and communities online in their preferred or native languages. This is especially true for hundreds of millions of people who speak the many languages of Africa.

 

“Africa is a continent with very high linguistic diversity, and language barriers exist day to day. We are pleased to announce that 55 African languages will be included in this machine translation research, making it a major breakthrough for our continent,” Balkissa Ide Siddo, Public Policy Director for Africa said while speaking about the launch of the AI model. “In the future, imagine visiting your favourite Facebook group, coming across a post in Igbo or Luganda, and being able to understand it in your own language with just a click of a button – that’s where we hope research like this leads us. Highly accurate translations in more languages could also help to spot harmful content and misinformation, protect election integrity, and curb instances of online sexual exploitation and human trafficking.”

 

While commenting on accessibility and inclusion in the pursuit of building an equitable metaverse, Ide Siddo added “At Meta, we are working today to ensure that as many people as possible will be able to access the new educational, social and economic opportunities that the next evolution of the internet will bring to future technology and an everyday living experience tomorrow.”

 

To confirm that the translations are high quality, Meta also created a new evaluation dataset, FLORES-200, and measured NLLB-200’s performance in each language. Results revealed that NLLB-200 exceeds the previous state of the art by an average of 44 percent.

 

Meta is also open-sourcing the NLLB-200 model and publishing a slew of research tools to enable other researchers to extend this work to more languages and build more inclusive technologies. Meta AI is also providing up to $200,000 of grants to non-profit organizations for real world applications for NLLB-200.

 

There are versions of Wikipedia in more than 300 languages, but most have far fewer articles than the 6+ million available in English. Following Meta’s partnership with the Wikimedia Foundation, the non-profit organization that hosts Wikipedia and other free knowledge projects, modelling  techniques and learnings from the NLLB research are now also being applied to translation systems used by Wikipedia editors. Using the Wikimedia Foundation’s Content Translation Tool, articles can now be easily translated in more than 20 low-resource languages (those that don’t have extensive datasets to train AI systems), including 10 that previously were not supported by any machine translation tools on the platform.

 

To explore a demo of NLLB-200 showing how the model can translate stories from around the world, visit here. You can also read the research paper here.

 

 

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