Time to reflect on media role in gender

GFMG pic

Press Statement by PSAf executive Director Lilian Kiefer on the eve of the Global Forum on Media and Gender

Bangkok, Thailand, 01 December 2013: The time has come for different stakeholders to collectively and critically reflect on and harness the power of the media in addressing gender inequalities and the resultant gender based violence in Southern Africa.

The media plays a critical role in influencing public opinion and behaviour on various aspects of life and gender relations is one of them. There has been a remarkable increase in media coverage of gender issues in the region. The media has consistently highlighted the magnitude of such vices as gender based violence, increasing public awareness of the vice and its impact on the socio-economic development on the nation.

However, media coverage of gender issues is still packed with discriminatory attitudes, stereotypical coverage and a general inadequacy in positively present voices of women.  The media has also remained silent on the abuses of female journalists both in their line of work — as exemplified by the recent gang raping of a female photojournalist in India — and in the newsroom where opportunities tend to favour the male gender rendering media as a male-dominated arena.  This calls for support of various stakeholders in addressing gender equality through the media and in the media.

In order to contribute towards the solution of these short comings in the media, PSAf has partnered with UNESCO and other like-minded institutions in organizing the Global Forum on Media and Gender (GFMG), being held in Bangkok, Thailand from 2-4 December 2013. Deliberations at the GFMG will lead to the formation of the Global Alliance for Media and Gender (GAMG) in order to catalyse women empowerment and gender equality through the media and in the media.

As a stepping stone towards enhancing the media’s capacity to overcome gender inequality and gender based violence, PSAf is supporting a team of journalists from mainstream and community media institutions across Southern Africa to attend the GFMG and interact with over 500 fellow journalists, activists and development facilitators from across the world.

We hope this will create an opportunity for the growth of a Zambian and global movement that is aimed at addressing gender inequalities through and in the media.

The report on the Thematic Consultation on Addressing Inequalities – Post 2015 Development Agenda  highlights gender-based discrimination and the denial of the rights of women and girls as the single most widespread driver of inequalities in the world today. In order to address inequality, it is crucial that gender-based inequalities are addressed comprehensively. Freedom of expression for instance, is a basic human right that is adversely affected by imbalanced access to information,  information technology and underrepresentation in the media

The challenge for stakeholders is to reflect on how to engage effective interventions in order to address these persistent inequalities. From a communication for development perspective, the challenge becomes more specific to: how to effectively galvanise the potential of the media and information technologies to address these inequalities. Firstly, access to information is unequal due to inequalities in access to education, and access to sources of income which hamper an individual’s ability to command access to information.

We hope the GAMG will contribute towards ensuring that the global movement creates an impact at home. Many times global movements and interventions face challenges because of lack of mechanisms for driving the impact on the ground. The plan for the GAMG is to make use of existing media or gender commemorations such as World Radio Day or Women make the news to take the agenda forward. Hopefully, relevant stakeholders at home will take opportunity of this international move and work with the local media and media-affiliated organisations to advance gender equality through the media and in the media.

This will create an opportunity to explore how to support the media in accurately mirroring the society and producing coverage that is complete and diverse to portray the society in a more in-depth way rather than portraying stereotypes that advance gender inequalities.

Issued by Lilian Kiefer, Executive Director of Panos Institute Southern Africa  (PSAf). 

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