GMBS Briefing

Date: November 16, 2009
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The regional report of the Gender and Media Baseline Study (GMBS) is the overview of a study on gender in the editorial content of the Southern African media. It is accompanied by reports for each of the twelve countries where the study took place.

The most comprehensive regional effort ever to be undertaken to establish how women and men are represented and portrayed in the media, in what areas, and by who, the study covered a total of 25 110 news items in September 2002.

The study is a joint initiative of the Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA) that seeks to foster a free, independent and diverse media, and Gender Links, a Southern African NGO that promotes gender equality in and through the media.

The findings are as shocking as they are challenging. To take a few measures: women in the study constituted 17 percent of news sources, one percent less than the global average of 18 percent. The only news category in which women predominate is as TV presenters. Women journalists wrote less than twenty percent of the articles in the items monitored.

Giving voice to all segments of society is intrinsic to participation, citizenship and in turn to democracy. The Gender and Media Baseline Study (GMBS) is thus the beginning of a concerted advocacy campaign to ensure that the voices of women and men are equally heard, on all subjects, in the news.

The campaign begins with the launch of the regional report on 7 March- the eve of International Women’s Day (8 March 2003)- at a seminar in Johannesburg that will be attended by senior media practitioners, regional officials and gender activists. The regional report will also be launched in early March at a special side event during the annual meeting of the UN Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) that is focussing this year on gender and the media.

Traditionally, 8 March is a day around the globe when media houses hand over the making of the news to women. The GMBS launch, whose slogan is “women and men make the news”, coincides with a regional campaign to get women and men, at all levels of decision- making, to make the news on 8 March.

The campaign gains momentum with MISA declaring gender and the media as a central theme of this year’s World Press Freedom Day (3 May 2003) in the region. Country reports will be launched as part of two- day national action planning workshops that will be driven by MISA chapters and the newly established Southern African Gender and Media (GEM) Network.

These organisations will work with regulatory authorities, media training institutions, and media houses on measures to ensure that gender and all forms of diversity are reflected in media policy and practise. Outcomes of these campaigns will be measured in a follow up to this first “baseline” study.

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