Media4Women: breaking stereotypes on female journalists




As part of to commemorate this year’s International Women’s Day, a media based NGO, PAGED Initiative in collaboration with Free Press Unlimited  held a campaign in solidary with women working in media aimed at breaking stereotypes on women Journalists

 ENE OSANG writes.

Background

The Managing Director of PAGED Initiative Ummi Bukar, on wednesday convened a Media4Women Journalists’ forum: A discussion series on women in the media on the challenges peculiarto practitioners as well as charting the way forward towards better performance and establish equal gender portrayal in the media.

The forum, which  brought together female journalists from different media  advocated reflection of diversity and of opinions as panacea to media most effectively serving their audience and communities.

The maiden sit-out series featured discussions on how women journalists can go beyond stereotypes and make themselves a good name through hardwork, noted that many women journalists still find it difficult to get to the peak of the journalism career unlike their male counterparts.

Thisbis as the need for full representation and gender equality in the media was stressed.

According to the managing director, “the discussions was organized to hear from female journalists about their  experience in the media: what are their barriers to growth in the Media, and what will help them grow.

 “With the Media4Women (M4W) campaign Free Press Unlimited and its partners aim to create an international movement of (media) organisations and individuals that highlights the importance of gender equality in and through the media. The campaign strives to establish a more inclusive and equal portrayal of women in the media.

Bukar noted that in many countries there is still great inequality between men and women in the media, both in the positions they hold and in the way they are represented.

“Women are often less visible in the news, and many of their stories remain untold. As soon as journalists are looking for an expert opinion, women literally drop out of the picture,” she said.

“The majority of the media are still portraying women in stereotypical roles such as homemakers, models, or victims. Women are much more likely than men to be referred to in terms of superficial attributes such as their appearance, age, clothes and marital status.

” Men, on the other hand, are more likely to be portrayed as powerful publuc figures, with the media focusing on their professions, skills and opinions. This perpetuates limiting and unequal perceptions of gender,” she added.

Bukar maintained that women deserve equal rights and opportinities, stressing also that they have the power and responsibility to the present and future generations to challenge media stereotypes.

“All over the world there is a movement of (media) organisations and people who take action and show solidarity with women in the media. Women deserve equal rights and opportunities and we have the power to challenge medoa stereotypes.;

Statisstics

The records  made availablr to the forum indicated that only 4% of all newspapers, radio and TV reports worldwide challange gender stereotypes, adding that in Nigeria, only 18% of women are in the news while only 25% are female reporters.

Other countries like South Africa has 28% of women in the news and 47% female reporters, Malaysia 8% to 27%, Mali 13% to 26%, Netherlands 21% to 30%, worldwide 24% to 37%, amongst others.

Challenges

Various  challenges were identified as hindering the growth of women journalists and the portayal of women in the media including few women at managerial positions, poor percentage of femal reporters, insecurity, stereotypes, lack of  gender-friendly facility like cretch for nursing mothers, amongst others.

One of the participants Tina Auta, while sharing her experience being a female journalist said older Female journalists need to mentor the younger ones coming on board.

“It is our responsibility to guide them on the ethics of the professionand how to go about doing their work.

“It is also necessary to support each other, go the extra mile to be the backbone of other journalists and a voice to be reckoned with in the newsroom, she stressed.

Another participant Hauwa Gimba, lamented the unhealthy competition amongst female journalist, stating that this is greatly hindering women from growing.

“I had a female boss who never wanted my growth for some personal reasons which shouldnt be brought into the office. I work very hard and was liked by many, she never liked this and so she made me redundant for a long time but fortunately she was moved from that position and I came back to life on the job again,” she said.

“Men on the other hand do not like to be headed by a female and so on the desk they try to frustrate your efforts and also dont like working according to order, said another participant.

Way forward

Special Guest at the forum, Hajiya Zainab Suleiman Okino, who is also the Chairman, Editorial Board Blueprint Newspapers, said overtime women have tried to break the barrier to move from what it used to be.

She encouraged women in the media particularly younger journalists, not to relent but to continue striving to be the best.

“”In cases where women rise to management level it is a huge problem as decision taken could be used to describe her as weak or harsh irrespective of the advantage or result of decision taken.

Women through their work in media have won awards, gifts and different appreciation for the work they do but this does not translate to career progression as most times the men still take the lead because partriachy comes into play but we must keep struggling,” she said.

Lauratu Umar Abdusalam of British Council disclosed that sometimes women are the actual barrier for themselves as they result to unhealthy competition and jealousy which sometimes result to misunderstanding amongst them.

Lauratu said “Women need to be supportive of each other as the odds in the society is already against us by the virtue of being a woman.

She reiterated the need for women to carryout their job effectively, stating, ” Your ability to deliver breaks grounds for you irrespective of the gender issues sets us back.”

Also Speaking,  Assistant Editor Daily Trust Chukwu Eze Romeo, said though the terrain tries to undermine the of female journalist, hard work will surely make one stand out irrespective of gender.

He noted that “Sometimes women themselves make this excuse,when working with a male counterpart they tend to seek approval from them before carrying out their function which is not the same when the table is turned. And this tend to show the ‘perceived’ weakness in them”.

Similarly, the MD of the inititive tasked media organisations on inclusive and equal portrayal of women stating that the stereotypical portrayal denies them their rights to be viewed as equal individual.

“Women are portrayed in a stereotypical way in the media which denies their rights to be viewed as equal individuals. Media have the power and responsibility to challenge stereotypes. Together we need to set an example for current and future generations,” she stressed.

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