GFMG: Global Forum on Media and Gender calls for collective action

GFMG: Global Forum on Media and Gender calls for collective action

Date: December 4, 2013
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The Global Forum on Media and Gender kicked off in Bangkok on Monday 2 December. Photo: Albert NgosaBangkok, 3 December: The first ever Global Forum on Media and Gender (GFMG), kicked off in Thailand on 2 December with speakers calling on all partners to combine efforts in promoting gender equality in and through the media. This is a powerful call, especially during 16 Days of Activism, since gender equality in the media is key to ending gender-based violence and achieving women’s equal rights.

This conference takes place less than two years before the deadline for Millennium Development Goal Three (MGD3) on gender equality. 2015 is also the SADC Gender and Development Protocol deadline, which urges member states to commit to achieving gender equality in and through the media.

The United Nations Educational and Scientific Organisation (UNESCO) organised this conference in partnership with the World Association of Christian Communication (WACC), UN Women, Doha Centre for Media Freedom, IREX, Aljazeera and Panos Institute Southern Africa. Gender Links is coordinating input from the Africa regional caucus.

This conference is a follow-up to the 1995 Beijing Platform for Action (BPFA), which identified media as one of the critical areas for addressing gender inequality. This is the first time that media, civil society and government representatives are coming together to take stock of progress made since 1995 and to strengthen current efforts.

In the run-up to the GFMG, Gender Links hosted an advisory meeting in Johannesburg in early November for the Gender and Media Diversity Centre (GMDC), made up of Southern African media trainers, activists and NGOs. “Gender and media is at the bottom of the list in the Beijing Platform for Action when perhaps it should be at the top,” the group said. “Gender equality will not be achieved unless there is a fundamental shift in attitudes and mindsets. This is not possible without the active collaboration and participation by the media.”

In her opening message on Monday, Irina Bokova, Director General of UNESCO, explained that this forum aims to address the root causes of gender inequality in the media and to contribute to women’s empowerment. She further added that cooperation is essential to success, saying UNESCO and its partners invite all actors to join forces and efforts in a proposed Global Alliance on Media and Gender (GAMG).

Thailand’s Minister of Education, Chaturon Chaisang applauded media and civil society for taking this first step towards seeking a common solution to gender biases in the media. Chaisang emphasised the key role that the media plays in promoting gender equality.

The call for collaborative action is a response to the gender gaps that exist in media content, institutional structures, practices and access to information. The 2010 Global Media Monitoring project showed that women make up just 24% of news sources worldwide. In Southern Africa, women constitute just 19% of news sources as shown in the 2010 Gender and Media Progress Study conducted by Gender Links. The Gender Links 2009 Glass Ceilings report revealed that in Southern Africa women in the media constitute less than a quarter of top management.

The Women’s 2010 Global Report compiled by the International Federation of Media echoes the Glass Ceilings findings. Men continue to outnumber women in the workplace in general, especially in senior positions. Men also get better salaries than their female counterparts do.

Alton Grizzle, UNESCO Programme Specialist in Communication and Information likened the slow progress to an elephant trudging along a wide road. Grizzle urged people to take into account the heavy load, but also to draw inspiration from the elephant’s strong legs. “As a strong force, we can make it happen!”

Former South African deputy president and current Head of UN Women, Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, expressed excitement about the contribution this forum would make to the post-2015 development agenda. Mlambo-Ngcuka reminded delegates that 2015 also marks the 20th anniversary of the BPFA, and urged media to start acting like game changers to make the 21st century for women and girls.

Sikhonzile Ndlovu is the Media Programmes Manager at Gender Links. This article forms part of the Gender Links News Service special coverage of the Global Forum on Media and Gender, currently underway in Bangkok.


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