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Media accused of gender stereotypes, bias by Christian global group


Increased stereotyping and degrading depictions of women in the media still occur in many countries, members at a global congress of Christian communicators have asserted.

Some participants at the World Association of Christian Communication gathering, held every six years, noted that in 2005, a decade after the implementation of projects in 76 countries by the Global Media Monitoring Project, little positive change in selected indicators of gender bias in news media had taken place.

The monitoring project examines the portrayal and representation of women in media.

Those who spoke during the opening day of the 2008 WACC congress in Cape Town on 6 October, said gender stereotypes, bias and negative stereotyping of women had continued unabated in the media despite numerous efforts by editors and journalists in different countries to improve their coverage of women.

"The media needs to give access to women’s stories as sources other than victims," said Rosemary Okello, executive director of the African Women and Child Features Services in Kenya, who asserted the need to develop an authoritative directory that would provide access to women’s stories.

Some commentators say that media and gender justice is among the most serious and urgent challenges of modern times because it impedes gender equality and equity, which is one of the U.N. Millennium Development Goals aimed at drastically reducing poverty by 2015.

Okello said the media had become so commercialised that it mostly regards women not as people but as a market. She noted believed the media had created women’s pages and programmes merely in order to sell copies or attract viewers and listeners.

Colleen Lowe Morna, executive director of Gender Links, a South African media non-governmental organization, said that patriarchal societies continued to relegate females to the periphery although they formed the majority in society.

"If women consist of 15 percent of news how can we say we have freedom of expression?" queried Lowe Morna. She also accused media of practicing censorship by sidelining disabled and rural people, among others.

Morna said there was a need to ground research in policy since research alone is not enough. "It is important to work with media regulatory authorities in order to embed gender in policy." She also believed it was important for media to get people to write about their own experiences, and then to publish or broadcast the stories.

(c) Ecumenical News International