MBC Institutional profile

MBC Institutional profile

Date: July 5, 2013
  • SHARE:

Living up to the name: Centre of Excellence for gender mainstreaming

“The MBC recognises its responsibility to achieve the objectives of its gender policy and to act as an agent for promoting gender equality in the rest of society.” MBC gender policy page 1.

Gender Links’ relationship with the MBC is more than a decade old. When GL worked with the MBC to develop its gender policy back in 2003, no one knew that this was the beginning of a dynamic and catalytic relationship that would see the MBC becoming a Centre of Excellence for gender in the media.

As the first institution to develop a media house gender policy with support from GL, the MBC has become a good example of how buy in from the highest levels of any institution leads to effectiveness. As the GL team sits with Director General Dan Callikan and the Deputy Director General Soondaree Devi Soborun, it becomes evident that management takes gender mainstreaming seriously. Not only has management signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with GL signalling its commitment to transforming gender relations in and through the media, it has gone on to ensure that every employee is aware of this commitment and that the gender policy becomes a living document.

The fact that the gender mainstreaming process at the MBC is driven from the top has ensured effectiveness. Management buy-in has also made it possible for gender programmes to thrive at the MBC. For example, management has put in place monitoring and evaluation systems to ensure that all programming is in line with the gender policy. Deputy DG Soboorun is responsible for monitoring the implementation of the policy. This includes ensuring that all advertising goes through the Quality Control unit for verification before going on air.

When the MBC developed its gender policy the proportion of women sources stood at 14%. Through continued efforts and backing by management, this rose to 28% as indicated in the 2010 Gender and Media Progress Study, (GMPS). Speaking at the 2010 Gender and Media (GEM) summit, Soborun said, awareness of the gender gaps in MBC coverage had prompted the public broadcaster to think deeply about the broader issues of voice, responsiveness and what it means to be a public broadcaster that represents the views and voices of all segments of the population.

This is reflected in the way that the MBC has worked to ensure that gender is mainstreamed in both content and institutional practice. During the 2012 self-monitoring exercise, it emerged that the proportion of women sources has gone up to 40% for TV and 58% for radio. But the question is : what strengthens this desire to include different voices in the media?

The answer points to the diversity of Mauritian society. Mauritius is an Indian Ocean Island comprised of different races, tribes and cultures. This diversity is captured in the different languages spoken in the country such as Creole, English, French, Hindi, Mandarin and Bhoj puri. Creole is the language that has brought different languages and cultural groups together as they try to forge a common Mauritian identity.

Director General Dan Callikan says, ‘the diversity of Mauritian culture has also contributed to the way that the MBC approaches issues of diversity: ensuring that there is no prejudice.’ This belief in ‘unity in diversity’ has seen the MBC working to show that all constituent groups in Mauritius, women and men alike find expression at the MBC. He further adds that, ”what you see at the MBC is a result of a vision of what Mauritian society is all about. Respect for the equality of all groups of the Mauritian population.’

The MBC has just launched a Creole radio station Kool FM and a Bhoj Puri television channel. The two are run by women which is in line with the MBC’s desire to increase the proportion of women in decision making as highlighted in the gender policy. The MBC has made it possible for capable women to participate in decision-making.

Kool FM is a platform for different Creole speakers to express themselves. Callikan highlights that he is a firm believer in Creole, which has not been recognised as a language for a while. It is only now that Creole has found its place in history. It is now taught in schools. It is against this backdrop that the MBC has recently launched Mauritius first ever-Creole radio channel. Callikan describes this as historic as this channel covers the whole of Mauritius and other neighbouring Islands such as Seychelles and Rodrigues.

As an agenda setter one of media’s key roles is to create platforms for community engagement on different topics. These are mostly issues that affect Mauritian people at large. The aptly named Kool FM plays this role of connecting people. The station realises that change can only take place when communities come together and debate topical issues. The programme ‘Kool a l’e’cote’ (Kool FM listens to you) is a phone in programme which allows the audience to talk about their daily struggles. There is a range of gender specific topics that the radio station brings to the fore for discussion. One of the most common topics discussed is gender-based violence. The programme not only provides the platform for free expression but it also brings in legal and other experts to offer advice to the callers.

MBC a place for women and men to achieve their full potential

According to Deputy DG Soboorun, Mauritius has an Equal Opportunity Act that ensures that all groups in society get equal access to employment opportunities. In its operations, the MBC provides equal opportunities to women and men. For example at the Rodrigues FM programme selection, seven out of ten women were recruited. These capable women have shown leadership qualities and potential.

The MBC is also mindful of women’s dual roles often juggling private and professional responsibilities. MBC gives paternity (5 days) and maternity (84) leave which is in line with national law.

According to Sandra, Coordinator at Kool FM, ‘the Director General has empowered me by giving me the space and trust to work on this radio channel. As such I now have convictions about women and their capabilities.’ Sandra, who has no formal training in media, says she has undergone on-job- training at the MBC which has allowed her to rise through the ranks and occupy her current position.

Luxmibye Samboo, from the Human Resource department, echoes this saying the MBC identifies potential in individuals and allows them to achieve their best. She says the broadcaster has a commitment to seeing that women and men get equal opportunities.

In the television section, it is also evident that women enjoy a high level of respect from fellow employees. Selvina Sungeelee, a TV news editor says, as women journalists, they can go anywhere and cover any topic, there are no restrictions. She says she has respect from both management and colleagues which helps her focus on her job.

Ritvik Neerbun, Senior News Editor, says he has noticed the diligence with which women approach their work, often thriving to produce the best all the time. Neerbun also highlights that having a critical mass of women at the MBC has changed gender dynamics amongst employees with more men watching the language that they use. There is very minimal use of gender insensitive or offensive language. Women are treated as equals.

Head of Programming reiterates saying, the media house is aware of women’s capabilities and such fair treatment is essential to ensure optimum results. Callikan adds that ‘it is important for women to become aware of and believe in their potential. They need to have the conviction that they can do it. Once this happens then we can begin to see real change.’

Gender aware programming

As highlighted in the gender policy, the MBC thrives to achieve gender balance and sensitivity in the representation and portrayal of women in all news and programming. The increase in the proportion of women sources on television news from 28% to 40% in two years is evidence, together with the proportion of women sources on radio, which stands at 58%.

Promoting a diversity of voices is not limited to news but also extends to other programmes. Such programmes have included hosting cyber dialogues during the 2012 16 days of Activism of No Violence Against Women and Children campaign. As part of its commitment to gender equality, the MBC runs a series of programmes during the 16 days. In 2012, the broadcaster made provisions for callers to engage with experts on gender based violence.

During election time, the television station has also hosted debates and dialogue on women’s political participation. This has played a key role in raising the awareness levels of the Mauritius.

According to Callikan, one of the greatest challenges the MBC has had to grapple with is changing mind sets. He says it takes a lot to change long entrenched beliefs and value systems. The MBS constantly has to show concretely that women and men are indeed equal and that they accomplish anything. This view is shown in the MBC putting trust on its female Deputy Director General, Soboron.

Watch Mauritius Media Winner, Nathalie Didier: “My work for women empowerment is now a mission!”

Comment on MBC Institutional profile

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *