CSW: Women Speaking out


IAWRT has already been involved in several workshops at this year’s Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) being held in New York,  joining the discussion on the #MeToo campaign and issues of online harassment and violence against women in media.

The CSW is meeting at the United Nations to form guidelines on policies on rural women and to review the progress on women’s role in and on the media. NGO’s like IAWRT are participating in hundreds of parallel events and side events in the UN this year 

IAWRT President Violet Gonda, an award-winning journalist who recently returned home to Zimbabwe after 17 years in exile, says “Even though the Beijing Platform for Action has a mandate on women and the media, this has never been implemented.” Delegates have also used this opportunity to raise awareness about the Safety Handbook for Women Journalists and raise the issues of gender representation and safety for women in media.

IAWRT is involved with six separate events being held in tandem with the CSW, and the immediate past President Gunilla Ivarsson is moderating a GAMAG session on policies and research in Gender and Media.

CSW Observations

Beyond A Pretty Face: Tackling Gender Bias In Media Industries organised by IAWRT_USA and Zonta International

Panelists from From Left: Sonja Honig Zonta International, Dr. Michelle Ferrier, Professor and founder of Trollbusters, Patricia Siera Sampson, Voice Latina, Dr. Diana Nastasia, Gender researcher/IAWRT USA, Vanessa Tyler, WPIX reporter, Kerry Lindeque, Youth Women’s Alliance.

by Sarah Nakibukka

The panel discussed a number of issues ranging from the negative portrayal of women in the media, to the #MeToo campaign and the online media. Below, some nighlights of the key issues emerging from the discussions.

Impressions on the portrayal of women in the media.

  • Recent reports indicate that there is progress in women’s empowerment and portrayal as a result of media support. A lot has happened from the 1950’s to the 1990’s up until the present day. Women in the 50’s were portrayed mostly as house wives and the trends have improved through the 90’s and now where we see more women portrayed as media managers.
  •  Despite that improvement, the numbers of women heard, read about or seen in the media, is not improving. According to the most recent global monitoring statistics, media women numbers have been stagnant at around 24%.
  •  The number of women journalists keeps going down despite the fact that a number of them study journalism. This is because women prefer to do public relations work, rather than journalism. Cultural influence and society pressures keeps the Journalists away from their career.
  •  Journalists should be sensitized about their cultures and should appreciate their role in the empowerment of women. This would go a long way in establishing “Sustainable Media”
  •  We now need to strengthen and improve on the numbers of women in leadership / managerial positions to enable them to control content fully to curb existing negative portrayals.
  •  Media can be an agent of change and should be able to tell their stories appropriately. “You cannot be what you cannot say.”
  •  If women are to succeed, economic empowerment is key, women should seek mentorship, go for the relevant training courses and support each other.
  •  We need to hold people accountable for negative reporting

What is your take on the #Metoo Campaign?

  •  This campaign helps the women in the media and advocates to reflect on the progress made for women and come up with solutions.
  •  It helps us understand the role of various stakeholders if we are to achieve success. We need our own families to be involved right from childhood to understand their cultures. Unless this is done, there will not be appreciation of our cultures and the stereotypes will continue.
  •  Unless we start to love our societies and cultures, then we can not do much. Let us start by loving ourselves. “we cannot go far unless we work together”
  •  This campaign has some positive achievements. We now see women being profiled in powerful sectors like mining, and women in some powerful positions. These types of stories need to continue.
  •  Universities and colleges need to integrate issues of gender mainstreaming in their curriculum. We need to push for gender representation in all circles and diverse representation of women in the media.

What is your experience regarding online media?

  •  Online media is a good platform but a number of women have had serious issues with it. Lots of women have been pushed away from their careers on social media with lots of abuse and embarrassments. And the litigation process is too costly and time consuming.  We need clear regulations on online media. Governments, media managers and policy makers need serious engagement on this matter.

Media and Information Technologies: A Double-edged Sword for Women’s Advancement

 live on Facebook  International Association of Women in Radio and Television (IAWRT) This parallel session was organized by Reporters Without Borders (RSF), the International Women’s Media Foundation (IWMF) and the Committee to protect Journalists (CPJ).

  • “I cried a lot when I was first called me a prostitute … I wrote about it. I became really powerful. If defending human rights means I am a prostitute, I am a prostitute.”  I filmed myself crying, dancing, showing my hair – what scares the government of Iran? –  I started ‘My Stealthy Freedom’. and have a million followers. recently a million women in Iran have taken off the headscarves they are forced to wear and waved them on a stick. “They kicked me out of my country, but I found a window.” Exiled Iranian Journalist – Masih Alinejad
  • “you can be killed for reporting on women’s menstruation, an ordinary every day thing – about girls not having access to sanitary napkins for that you can be killed in some countries.” IAWRT’s Sheila Sheila Dallas-Katzman
  • “It is really awful out there, both in the real world and the virtual word. I have been called an ugly lying whore, an Islamic terror bitch, a Zionist agent.” Mona Eltahawy says she was targeted by Egyptian Riot Police in 2011 during a demonstration and physically and sexually assaulted. last year (2017) Egyptian newspapers reprinted a picture of her with broken arms from that assault because she described the US President Donald Trump as a fascist in the same vein as the Egyptian leader Abdel Fattah el-Sisi. It was designed to send a message “we did this to you but we can do it again.” Egyptian New York Times Journalist: Mona Eltahawy 
  • Humour and mockery can be powerful but can be signing a death sentence. Women can take their headscarves off in Iran but they can’t be left standing alone.  There are way more avenues more to abuse women. The state won’t use sexual slurs against male journalists. I grew up coming home to graffiti being spay painted on the family house, I though it was normal. we should not accept it as normal it is just the first step before physical violence. Digital abuse must not be accepted as a normal part of work it wears one down. We must take action against it use legal avenues. Matthew Caruana Galizia, Pulitzer winner, son of murdered journalist, Daphne Caruan Galiza
  • We are hearing a lot from women wo are speaking out who are retaliating but there a lot of women who are silenced. There is a real defensive position by newsroom to our survey on harassment one HR person said it might create the expectation of a solution if we hand out the survey. They are not alone “There may be a don’t ask don’t tell policy. This is a threat to the news industry as a whole. It is not easy but there are solutions. IWMF’s Nadine Hoffman
  • companies like Twitter want to do something – but do not understand the scale of the problem –  there is a lot of good work but no one central repository. Many trying to give uses more control of privacy but could be double edged sword hiding or blocking threats as CPJ finds that journalist killings are preceded by threats and abuse. Global social media has trouble identifying threats according to each culture. however, they are definitely not doing enough an released in data. CPJ advocacy director, Courtney Radsch, 

The main IAWRT workshop, #Metooonline – Workshopping Solutions to Counter Cyber Violence Against Women to be held soon is aimed at creating guidelines for media organizations to protect female journalists. IAWRT is calling for the creation of robust industry-wide guidelines on how media organizations should protect their female employees from sexualized and/or gender cyber violence. Discussion in the IAWRT – Genderlinks event aims to kickstart the process of getting the media industry to put such protections in place. 

For the first time, IAWRT delegates will be involved in three Side Events in UN headquarters. Abeer Saady, the author of the safety handbook and Chair of the IAWRT CSW organising committee, says partnering with like-minded NGO’s, “has enabled us to present and participate in an unprecedented number of events” (Side events involve government representatives collaborating with NGOs to present a topic speaking directly to governments).

Abeer, who is the IAWRT Vice President and a journalist safety trainer has accepted an invitation to join a panel at the UNESCO side event, A Dent in Democracy: how on and offline attacks on women journalists are hurting us all, which will highlight the UN Plan of Action on the Safety of Journalists and the issue of impunity.

The IAWRT Gender Links joint side event, Making Information and Communication Technologies Work for Gender Justice will workshop solutions to cyber violence problems, such as hacking targeting female journalists and attempts to destroy reputations. A digital gender and media-monitoring tool, developed by Gender Links, with assistance from Free Press Unlimited, will be presented.

IAWRT’s radio experts will be at a side event to speak to the CSW’s main theme rural women and girls. ‘The event, organised with the UN Department of Public Information, is Community media broadcasters: Building capacities for amplifying voices of rural women will include IAWRT board member, Archana Kapoor, an Indian community radio leader, and Sheila Katzman (former UN Chief of UN Radio and Public Information at DPKO).

Reports and live streams from our delegates are on our Facebook group International Association of Women in Radio and Television (IAWRT), on Twitter #CSW62 @iawrt and here, iawrt.org.

CSW Delegates Photo essay.

By Nancy Cohen