By Fatemah Farag, Director, Arab Region, Women in news
In today’s world the media is increasingly dependent on audience trust and engagement. That means you can influence your media to make more inclusive decisions with regards to women’s voices.
And it matters that you do so.
In 2021 COVID19 continues to negatively impact women in the Arab region at a disproportional rate to men. The pandemic has made it possible for women in the Arab world to suffer more violence, more emotional stress, more job losses and less opportunities than men. And that is just to mention some of the indicators included in the latest UNWomen study on COVID19 and women’s status in the Arab Region.
This is a region which has seen many successes for the rights of women and there are many influential and inspiring women in all walks of life. But we must also admit that for the most part we have filed to effectively include women in decision making positions, ensure equal rights in many areas under law and ensure a culture change that moves us in the direction of full equality. Can you imagine that in 2021 in the Arab world gender equality remains a major concern with women’s economic participation considered to be one of the lowest in the world?
Our media reflects these realities — our societal context impacts our awareness as journalists, how we perceive the needs and wants of society impacts our journalism. Cultural and political sensitivity still condition how we approach and report on – or don’t – instances of violence against women including sexual harassment.
And as Arabs we consume x number of media hours (divided over internet, TV, radio, and print) a week; think about how all of that content in turn impacts your understanding of gender and what kind of energy it can instill into progress or regression.
Change needs to come from within our industry and there is no doubt the media can and should do better to prompt us all with the information and discussions that can bring about equality and fairness. WAN IFRA’s Women in News Program and its many media partners across the Arab Region and the globe works to ensure that we are all taking on the challenge and making the changes relevant to our businesses and society.
But you too dear reader need to make sure these changes are happening. You need to hold your media to account if it is publishing misogynist content, if it is discriminatory, if it victimizes the victims. You need to pay attention that the millions of women who are a part of our society are not marginalized or belittled in media content. And you need to support media organizations that show that they are stepping up.
Why should you bother? Because our ability to achieve democracy, human rights and higher levels of civilization and happiness for all depend on our being able to be inclusive and fair.
And besides “we are what we read” so make sure your media is providing you with content that meets your standards.