31 October 2016 – The transition experienced by Africa, with the recent liberalization of the media space, has been marked by the expansion of audiovisual, written and online media organisations. This demand for freedom of expression and information has generated debates on a variety of issues which, until then, had been taboo or ignored. The concept of gender equality is one of them.
From 21 to 24 October 2016, representatives from 25 French-speaking national broadcasters from Africa reached a consensus on gender equality action plans following a training on the application of UNESCO’s Gender-Sensitive Indicators for Media. Through this event, the Organisation sought to strengthen media pluralism and the adoption of gender-sensitive policies in African broadcasting organisations.
Media organisations have considerable power to shape a society’s experience of diversity by reporting upon the concerns of different groups in society and providing them with a platform to gain visibility and be heard. Yet the media can also engender discrimination by strengthening stereotypes or excluding certain groups from public discourse. For many years now, UNESCO has been actively working towards achieving gender equality in the media by 2030 by contributing to a range of gender-specific activities in the media space.
“For UNESCO, achieving gender equality in the media is a top priority. It is indeed one of our two global priorities, along with Africa. This training is therefore at the heart of the Organisation’s programmes,” said Sylvie Coudray, Chief of Section for Freedom of Expression at UNESCO’s Communication and Information Sector.
Speakers included representatives of partners such as International Organization of La Francophonie (IOF), African Union of Broadcasting (AUB), Morocco’s High Authority for Audiovisual Communication, UN Women Maghreb, and Broadcast Academy by Host Broadcast Services.
“It is our common goal that you leave this training equipped with tools and knowledge that will allow you to convince your organisations’ senior management team, your colleagues and your partners of the importance of gender issues in the social development of media,” explained Evelyne Faye, Gender Focal Point and Communications Manager at the AUB.
Tidiane Dioh from the IOF highlighted the link between the treatment of women in society and in the media. According to him, if women are not or seldom represented in society, it will be reflected in the media. However, as critical citizens we must remember that while the media do reflect what happens in society, it is a two-way relationship; the media is shaped by social dynamics at the same time as society is influenced by what is shown in the media. Change must therefore come from both sides – equality between women and men in decision-making as well as equal representation of women and men in news reporting. Tidiane Dioh welcomed UNESCO and IOF’s partnership in this area.
After stocktaking sessions on the application of the Gender-Sensitive Indicators and more generally on gender-specific initiatives within African public media bodies, participants developed action plans for their organisation through the lens of different indicators – working conditions, editorial policies, media content, etc.
Farah Outeldait from UN Women Maghreb recommends, among other solutions, the creation of focal points in press organisations, the development of a gender-sensitive language, improving the presence of female experts and women interviewed in the media, and the implementation of auditing and monitoring tools.
Based upon her own experiences in the domain of sports media, Lise Cosimi-Breant, Director of the Broadcast Academy by Host Broadcast Services, called on the participants to raise awareness of women in their organisations, for example by encouraging them to form groups to provide them with a space for dialogue and exchange.
The Organisation is currently working on a fundraising strategy to implement the gender equality action plans in all 25 countries.
For more information on the programme and participants, please visit: http://en.unesco.org/training-gender-sensitive-indicators-media
The aim of the Gender-Sensitive Indicators for Media is to contribute to gender equality and women’s empowerment in and through media of all forms, irrespective of the technology used. They were developed by UNESCO, in cooperation with the International Federation of Journalists and many other partners, on the basis of various consultations.