A woman with glasses leaning over a table pointing to a laptop screen as a seated man and woman look on

Our Lead Gender expert, Lejla Hadzeiahmic, explains about the work that we are doing to make sure that gender equality matters. 

Gender research – where we are now

In Media for All programme, we recognise that gender equality matters not only as a mainstreamed area, but in its own right. Gender equality in the media is a powerful goal, as media shape our societies through the content delivered to their audiences. Media can be the instrument of change towards genders equality, or, on the contrary, it can maintain the status quo with men in positions of decision-making power and women excluded and disempowered.

Our research in the media sector in the Western Balkans confirms the gender imbalance and shows different forms of women`s invisibility. This consequently shapes the media sector structures, policies, processes, support systems, and representations, and results in inadequate recognition of men and women`s particular needs and interests.  Having researched and analyzed the current state of play, a number of gender transformative activities have been introduced to address the identified gaps and tackle existing gender relations in hope to initiate transformation of entrenched inequalities into equities.

Training, mentoring and mapping gender

With this in mind, we are working with a pool of 15 leading gender and media experts from across the region, who are dedicated to training, mentoring, mapping, research and development.  Since the beginning of our programme:

  • we have introduced the first mentorship programme for Women in Media, 
  • we are mapping the existing networks and exploring ways of facilitating connections and strengthening of solidarity of Women in Media, 
  • we are examining and developing Gender-related policies of media outlets we are working with, we are implementing capacity building in the area of Gender Equality and Safety of Women and Men journalists, and:
  • we are researching impact of Covid-19 on Women in Media.

All of these actions are designed to work towards instigating change in the media sector in the six countries across Western Balkans at different levels – policy, outlet and individual.

Gender Research and Policy

At a structural and policy levels, our Gender Research and Policy Mentorship Project seeks to recognize existing policy gaps and good practices to offer mentorship to media outlets in development of policies on gender equality in the work place, and policies on producing gender-sensitive media content. This includes training and a six-week instrumental mentorship process. Currently, 14 media outlets from six countries are engaged with our Senior Gender Expert to develop their own policies in accordance with their needs.

We are conducting Mapping of Women`s Networks in Media across Western Balkans with an aim of facilitating connections and strengthening the community and solidarity of Women in Media in the Western Balkans By bringing together women in media across the region, we aim to amplify their voices, strengthen confidence and solidarity and influence positive change. 

At a level of an individual, our pilot Mentorship Programme for early career female journalists is a novel initiative in the media sector. Six renowned and experienced female journalists from the region worked with 15 early career women in journalism, in order to support their individual personal and professional development. As part of the process, we created a safe space for mentorship pairs to engage in trusting relations through which the mentors supported their mentees and encouraged development of their skills, capacities and confidence. 

Gender Training

At the same time, our training for journalists and editors aim to transform the grip of gender stereotyping in the media sector and address the issue of journalists` safety. The module on Gender Equality raises the question why the media content rarely represents women as active protagonists of public life, but portrays them as mothers/wives, often in victimized roles, or as hyper-sexualised showbiz-stars. The participants discuss how gender norms and stereotypes are reproduced through language and visual imagery in the media, and how such representations perpetuate a vicious cycle of gender stereotyping with long-term social consequences. 

The module on Safety of Women and Men Journalists addresses another obstacle to gender equality in the media sector that is entrenched around the issue of safety of journalists. This is a professional risk shared by both men and women journalists, but they are differently affected. Men are mostly exposed to life-threatening physical violence, and women experience more subtle yet damaging forms of gender-based violence, harassment and bullying both in the field work, in virtual space, and in their office spaces. The media sector has the responsibility to provide safe working environment and our trainings seek to support development of culture of safety for all.

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