The rise of the internet has offered the opportunity for the news media to communicate with audiences in many significant ways that may have profound consequences in the shaping of public opinion and transforming lives in the global sphere. Through a Critical Discourse Analysis (CDA), this article examines ways in which online news media could be used to reinforce gender stereotypes by promoting patriarchal religious beliefs and how this may have huge implications on women’s empowerment with regard to political leadership roles in developing democracies.
The analysis is drawn from the 2014 Malawi elections, in which a major opposition party used a campaign slogan peppered with sexist religious and cultural connotations to ridicule and vote out of office southern Africa’s first ever female President – Joyce Banda and her People Party (PP). In May 2014, Malawi held national elections and the main contestants were former President Banda representing the PP, Peter Mutharika of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), Lazarus Chakwera of the Malawi Congress Party (MCP) and Atupele Muluzi of the United Democratic Front (UDF). Mutharika and the DPP won the elections to wrestle away the presidency from Banda and her People’s Party. This article discusses the campaign slogan – Sesa Joyce Sesa – created by the DPP to attack former President Banda in which Malawi’s significant online news media sites played a critical role in the diffusion of the gendered campaign mantra to resonate with the religious identity of majority the electorate. The article reflects on the potential of new media to consolidate deep-rooted religious and cultural beliefs that marginalise women for leadership positions and the effect this may have on bridging gender inequalities, particularly in political representation in developing democracies.