Women's Issues In Guyana

Journalists urged to avoid gender stereotypes, portrayal of women in media

Posted in Education,Gender Equality,Health Issues by wiig on December 25, 2007
Tags: , , ,

Stabroek News – December 25th 2007

Journalists from across the region have been challenged to put on their gender lens when reporting and to avoid stereotypes particularly in relation to women and how they are portrayed in the mass media.

These, among other issues were addressed at an intense two-day Gender Equity and Women Empowerment Training session for regional journalists. The workshop, a Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) Gender, Ethnicity and Health Unit initiative, was hosted by Women’s Media Watch (WMW) of Jamaica last week in Barbados. It drew journalists from Guyana, Trinidad and Tobago Grenada, St Maarten, Jamaica, Dominica, Montserrat, St Kitts, Belize and Grenada.

PAHO Regional Adviser, Gender Health and Development Dr William Adu-Krow said the organization is currently considering the pervasive presence of gender inequalities in health; the international mandates on gender equality and the United Nations system increasing practice of integrating gender equality criteria in policies and programmes among other things. It will commit to mainstream gender equality in all facets of PAHO’s technical cooperation work; national health development policy frameworks as well as its organizational development and human resource policies.

Studies conducted in the region and further afield show that women are dramatically under-represented in the news and the challenge is for journalists to strike a balance while critiquing gender stereotypes and discrimination that perpetuate inequality. During the session journalists covered many key areas such as whether gender matters in all stories; the roles and portrayal of women and men in news stories and gender equity and human rights. WMW facilitators Hilary Nicholson and Patricia Donald emphasized that the media influence opinions, beliefs, attitudes and value systems and as such should be responsible in their reporting.

As part of the session, journalists discussed studies that revealed that women’s views and voices are marginalized in the media, whereas men’s voices dominate in hard news.

Additionally, focus was placed on how women are more than twice as likely as men to be portrayed as victims in news stories and that stories are more likely to reinforce than challenge gender stereotypes.The issue of sensationalism was also addressed in relation to what sells and it was found that women are more often the targets of ‘juicy’ headlines. But, more important, journalists were encouraged to write from a more gender informed perspective and not to simply cover an issue but to write on its implications on women and men and children in the society.

Other issues the WMW addressed included that women are often portrayed in domestic situations and men are shown as leaders in the media; that young men mostly make the news when they are perpetrators of crime and that women tend to appear in stories on beauty and entertainment. WMW also pointed out that the media needs to show the reality of both women’s and men’s contribution to society.

The group also covered gender and HIV/AIDS issues during the sessions. Journalists were urged to focus on this area particularly since the infection is being feminized as women, due to their unequal social status, are placed at a higher risk of contracting HIV.

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