Leading media practitioners demonstrated how they are using their influence to take accelerated action towards gender equality at the Step It Up for Gender Equality Conference in Johannesburg on 29 August 2019.
“The media plays a critical role in determining the route of public reaction,” says Nolwazi Tusini, journalist, writer and speaker in her welcome as MC at the conference. “The media has an absolute obligation to be part of the change that we need. We need to turn the tide on the war against women’s bodies in South Africa.”
The conference, held in partnership with UN Women South Africa Multi-Country Office (SAMCO) and the German Development Cooperation (GIZ), saw leading journalists and big media names such as Mahlatse Gallens (EWN editor), Gugulethu Mhlungu (deputy editor of Bona magazine), Palesa Letlaka (filmmaker and media specialist) and many others take the stage in the name of inclusive, unstereotyped, and gender equal representation.
A recent World Economic Forum Global Gender Report reveals that empowering women and girls is one of the most effective ways to accelerate sustainable development and unlock economic growth. “In terms of progress, we’re starting to reach middle-ground in terms of education, and women are in spaces career-wise that we have never been before,” says Anne Githuku-Shongwe, UN Women Country Director. “But we still struggle with norms and stereotypes.
About 12% of South African laws are discriminatory; not in the law itself, but through cultural laws. The work we need to do is not just in the law, we need to shift stereotypes and norms that perpetuate these,” she says.
The conference worked to create a partnership between media houses, production houses, government and civil society by exploring concrete solutions for issues such as:
- The need for sensitive reporting and storytelling regarding gender, and the linked challenges and opportunities for media.
- How to strike a balance between storytelling for social change and reflecting reality or even using blatant stereotypes.
- How SA media are already progressing in this field and inspiration from abroad.
- A way forward and creating a pledge for the media to commit themselves to gender equality and women’s empowerment.
“There is no such thing as unbiased media; the media reflects what the media believes,” says Githuku-Shongwe. “We can give you all the gender equality tools in the world, but if you don’t believe it, nothing will ever change.”
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The full report is available here – Gender, Diversity & GBV in SA Television