14 December 2015

Africa: Gender and Media Alliance Commits to Up the Ante in 2016

Over 200 participants from 65 countries gathered at the United Nations for the International Development Cooperation Meeting on Gender and Media and the Global Alliance on Media and Gender (GAMAG) general assembly last week.

They vowed to mount an unprecedented campaign in 2016 to end gender inequality in and through the media. Formed in 2013 following the Global Forum on Media and Gender (GFMG) in Bangkok, the meeting showed that the growing momentum since the launch of the network two years ago in Bangkok.

The meeting took place against the backdrop of the Sixteen Days of Activism on No Violence Against Women and Children. Women are continually side lined from politics and endure the most of economic and structural violence. The media also continues to represent women as victims of violence; lacking in agency and trivialising their experiences.

Most GBV stories are reported from a court perspective, where the cards as heavily stacked against women, with little insight into what women actually experience. Few stories give practical advice on where to go for help.

The conference also took place in the context where the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) adopted in September 2015. GAMAG's call for specific references to gender and media in the SDGs did not succeed. There are no specific targets and indicators on this in the SDGs.

Despite all training, advocacy, policy and lobbying the media still lags behind in improving women's representation and portrayal sources in the news. The 2015 Global Media Monitoring Project (GMMP) coordinated by the World Association for Christian Communication (WACC) shows that women comprise only 24% of news sources.

This figure shows no improvement since 2010 Global Media Monitoring Project (GMMP) study. "Women remain invisible or underrepresented on traditional media based on almost every indicator we measure," warned Sarah Macharia, WACC spokesperson on the study. "And this trend has replicated itself in digital media as well."

In her opening statement, Gender Links CEO and Chair of GAMAG Colleen Lowe Morna said we should be worried about gender and media not being explicit in the SDGs. "We have ticked all the easy boxes on gender equality, like changing laws," she said. "The big struggle over the next 15 years is changing attitudes. We are up against the most powerful and the most evasive of ideologies, patriarchy. We are not going to succeed in this unless we have the media on our side."

Lowe-Morna further noted that "we cannot talk about women having voice when they are invisible in media; we cannot talk about choice when women do not have the voice and we cannot talk about control when women do not have voice and choice."

Joining the conference remotely, Christiane Amanpour, Chief International Correspondent for CNN and UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador for Freedom of Expression, noted that when women are equally represented it makes the field perform better and perform to capacity. She said, "if gender equality can be achieved in the media, it will go a long way to achieving it in the rest of society. When women have an equal say, this will shift the dynamic, and the dialogue!"

In her keynote address to International Development Cooperation meeting Bettina Luescher applauded female journalists who are breaking new ground and making their mark in news beats hardly given to women. Luescher noted that there is a significant growth in the number of women covering news in war zones for example. Luescher added that all people should be able to reach their full potential. Female journalists need to get a chance to make it in the industry.

Gunilla Ivarsson, The International Association of Women in Radio & Television (IAWRT) President noted: "We need to engage all types of media to address gender in and through the media. To do this gender equality work, we need resources - time, human capacity, funds and a budget line. We need to create better synergies to create better outcomes."

Gender and media activists, researchers, scholars, media owners journalists, civil society and government representatives dedicated themselves to the implementation of GAMAG activities and reprioritisation of Section J of the Beijing platform for Action, which has received inadequate attention since 1995. It will give impetus to all stakeholders to collaborate and contribute to achieving gender equality and empowerment of women in and through media in all corners of the world where they have influence.

As we approach 2016, the GAMAG chapters are committing to rolling out initiatives including having a set of gender equality principles and standards for media houses; gender mainstreaming in journalism and media education; a community of practice on gender and media, and an initiative to identify regional and local champions for gender in media. The clarion call is to achieve gender equality in and through the media by 2030, in line with the Sustainable Development Goals.

(Tarisai Nyamweda is senior media programme officer at Gender Links. This article is part of the Gender Links News Service that offers fresh views on every day news).

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