To mark the International Women’s Day on March 8, and to give prominence to the high professionalism of women journalists, UNESCO’s Director-General, Koichiro Matsuura calls on the media worldwide to hand over editorial responsibility to women to cast the news for a day. Through this initiative UNESCO seeks to give more visibility to women journalists, to their editorial work, as well as to women as voices in the media.
Matsuura recalls that “there can be no sustainable development if the intellectual capacities, creative potential, practical resourcefulness and leadership abilities of more than half of the world’s population are ignored or suppressed.” UNESCO’s appeal to the world media is a testing ground of the progress made in the execution of the Beijing Platform for Action.
Despite the history of more than hundred years of journalism, proportional representation of women in journalism is not satisfactory. There is no easy way to measure the advancement of women in journalism. One way of doing it is to count the numbers of women in decision-making positions, another is to figure out the proportion of women and men in the newsrooms, yet another is to count the number of women journalists receiving service awards.
By creating the initiative “Women Make the News”, UNESCO’s Director General, Mr Koichiro Matsuura, emphasises that the issue of gender equality must remain at the forefront of each society’s agenda and the international community until gender balance is achieved at every level in the workplace.
UNESCO’s appeal for equality in the media – as in all other spheres – is a part of the struggle for genuine democracy in society at large and in media institutions in particular. It is a matter of human rights. As long as men and women are not given the possibility to work together on an equal basis, sharing the same rights and the same responsibilities, there is a democratic deficit in our societies.
Women make up more than a third of the world’s journalists. They work in newspapers and magazines, in broadcasting and on-line media and they cover every issue from education to, war. Although women are increasingly present in numbers in the media, they are still a long way from achieving equality with men in the newsrooms or rising to key editorial positions where decisions are made.
The UNESCO initiative aims to raise awareness about the fact that women are still underrepresented in the higher editing ranks as well as against any ingrained preconceptions that women are not fit for top managerial positions or for some work assignments in the media organizations.
There are different subtle and not so-subtle ways in which women are discriminated against in the media. For example, journalists rarely resort to women as sources for their story, even when such women are established authorities in their respective fields. Similarly, the stereotypical generic woman is often the subject of ridicule in cartoons and caricatures. Women in rural areas are for the most part ignored by the media. Both television programmes and drama often reinforce the stereotypical images of women.
“Women Make the News 2004” aims also to provide a platform for learning from each other’s experiences and collaborating for designing more effective programmes and interventions at policy level to improve the status of women journalists in the media. By bringing out the energy of professional women who will share a range of ideas and experiences within this initiative, UNESCO would like to encourage new ways to tackle old issues and to find different ways to talk about the stereotypes, developmental and social issues in the media.
Source: The News