Women Make the News

For media to be most effective in serving their communities, the range of broadcasters, print and online platforms must reflect the diversity and range of opinions of their audiences.

Improving diversity and pluralism in the media also means providing greater opportunities for young people, such as through the Linking Generations Through Radio training guide. It also means fostering the participation of ethnic and linguistic minorities, persons with disabilities and marginalised groups, to have their voices heard and actively contribute to media content creation and policy planning.In line with UNESCO’s Global Priority Gender, UNESCO is contributing to achieving full gender equality in the media by 2030.

The Gender-Sensitive Indicators for Media (GSIM) provide a comprehensive framework for media to analyse their content and operations, and form the basis for training initiatives involving media organisations across the globe. The Global Alliance on Media and Gender (GAMAG), initiated by UNESCO, brings together hundreds of organisations from every region of the world to coordinate efforts and research into gender equality strategies and policy.

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Launched annually on the occasion of the International Women’s Day (8 March), Women Make the News is a global initiative first celebrated in 2000, aimed at fixing global attention on an issue relating to gender equality in and through the media, driving debate and encouraging action-oriented solutions until global objectives are met. 

Women Make the news in Qatar

UNESCO, Al Jazeera Media Network and the Doha Centre for Media Freedom organized “Women Make the News,” an event aimed at celebrating the role of women in the media on the occasion International Women’s Day, at Al Jazeera Café on 7 March 2017 at Katara Cultural Village in Doha, Qatar.

Seven prominent speakers from the media, film and academic sector were invited to share their stories, experiences and aspirations with the public to raise awareness about the representation of women in the media and the evolution of the role of women in the newsrooms.

Speakers included Dima Khatib, Managing Director of AJ+, Asma Al Hamadi, Al Jazeera presenter, Sarah Al Derham, artist and Assistant Professor at Qatar University, Reem Al Harmi, columnist, Latifa Al Darwish, film-maker and cartoonist, Christina Paschyn, Assistant professor at Northwestern University in Qatar and Hanan Al Yafei, Advocacy and Monitoring Manager at Doha Centre for Media Freedom.

In his keynote speech, Dr. Mustafa Souaq, Acting Director General of Al Jazeera Media Network, stressed the role of the network in enhancing and highlighting the role of women journalists, especially in the Arab region, by ensuring representation of women journalists across the whole spectrum of the organization, from war reporters to producers, documentary film makers and managers.

“I remember how proud I was when I saw some of our women journalists finding themselves in Lebanon when the war broke in 2006, they were the first ones to be in the front, reporting the war, with helmets and bullet proof vests. That was one clear example that women can do their job as journalists, wherever they are,” Mustafa Souaq said.

“Al Jazeera has some of the best journalists currently reporting from war zones. Now we have one of our most fantastic journalists in Yemen, she is a woman and she reports from the frontline. Another one who has faced many conflicts in the Arab world is now reporting from Syria, from under the bombing, she is there trying to hide and trying to find information and report it to the public,” he added.

In her opening remarks, Anna Paolini, UNESCO Representative to the GCC and Yemen, expressed that International Women’s Day was a great occasion to celebrate women who make the news, “including women behind the camera or on our screens every morning to bring us the news and courageous women who report from the frontline.” “We shouldn’t forget women journalists who are unfortunately not with us anymore and lost their lives doing their job, trying to bring the news to the public, in the Arab region and other regions around the world”.

She also added that “the UN has ensured gender equality and equal opportunities to women and girls feature as priorities in the new UN development agenda and, in fact, Sustainable Development Goal 5 is exactly about that. UNESCO is definitely contributing to implementing this goal in many ways and one of them is working with partners to ensure representation and participation of women at the centre of the media”.

Dima Khatib was one of the first women journalists to work and report for Al Jazeera Arabic Channel, when she covered the Iraq war, and is the first and only female executive director within Al Jazeera. She highlighted the role of Al Jazeera in changing mentalities by enabling women journalists to participate in all media fields and moving away from men empowering women to women empowering women and women, including in her position as Managing Director of AJ+. She recalled her career in the media sector, having overcome significant challenges in the workplace and in her personal life, and being given the opportunity to use her skills and capacities to become one of the network’s most prominent correspondents, reporting from many different regions and working environments across the world.

Reem Al Harmi, a columnist with local media in Qatar who published her first article at the age of 14, used the space she was given by a newspaper as a columnist to clear misconceptions and voice her opinions on the representation of Arab women. She confirmed that the support of her family enabled her to overcome challenges and break taboos in a male-dominated working environment, including when she received messages with threatening languages for reporting on sensitive topics such as politics and terrorism.

Sarah Al Derham, an artist and assistant professor at Qatar University, talked about the construction of women Khaleeji’s image and how it evolved over the years. She traced back the history of women in the Arab region from leaders, thinkers, educators and revolutionaries, highlighting that women have always been teachers in this region, playing an important role in the education of men and women. Referring to the popularity of social media and modern day technology, Sarah Al Derham encouraged the audience to amplify voices of women in the region that carry positive messages using the power of social media in creating and curating women’s representation online, and reminded the public, including women social media users, of their responsibility in countering the hypersexualization of women in the region.

Latifa Al Darwish stressed the importance of storytelling and film-making in breaking stereotypes and setting role models for the next generations. Based on her experience as a film-maker, Latifa Al Darwish testified of the difficulty to break stereotypes and succeed in an industry where Arab women are expected to be portrayed as weak, victimized and oppressed and Arab women film makers are expected to be political and rebellious. Advocating for the promotion of strong empowering female characters in films, she referred to past Khaleeji shows including Khalti Gmasha and stressed the need to transfer the memory of powerful characters for next generations to look up to.

Asma Al Hamadi, Al Jazeera presenter on the network’s arabic show “With Al Jazeera This Morning,” shared her experiences when, after graduating from Qatar University with a degree in media communications, she first began in the field of media and described the struggles she faced trying to develop a successful career in this sector, especially as a radio presenter in Sout Al-Khaleej Radio station and the hurdles of conveying impactful messages through voice only. As a presenter for Qatar TV first, and then with Al Jazeera Arabic, she testified being able to raise awareness about a variety of issues affecting society and enriching community discussions on TV and contributing to positive women’s representation in the media.

Christina Paschyn, assistant professor at Northwestern University, referred to a study analyzing how and with what frequency Arab women appear in Arab news in nearly 1,500 news briefs from some 100 Arab media sources. The study found that Arab women were largely unseen in Arab news. In fact, 44 percent of news brief references that mentioned women came from just four of those 100 pan-Arab news sources. On the representation of women in the media in Qatar, she encouraged more women journalism students and aspiring to showcase their accomplishments through the media, as women’s visibility media is essential for further promoting gender equality in the country.

Launched annually on the occasion of the International Women’s Day, Women Make the News is a global initiative led by UNESCO aimed at raising global attention on issues relating to gender equality in and through the media, driving debate and encouraging action-oriented solutions until global objectives are met.

The event was livestreamed on Al Jazeera Mubasher Facebook Live, with more than 23,000 views and broadcasted on Al Jazeera Mubasher’s TV channel.

The event was covered by two “Junior Reporters,” two female high school students who are part of a group of young reporters who have received training from the Doha Centre for Media Freedom on media and information literacy and journalism and who are provided with the opportunity to cover international and local events related to media. You may watch the interviews they conducted on this link.

Empowering Yemeni women journalists in Mukalla

Within the framework of UNESCO’s efforts to promote freedom of expression and media development, UNESCO Cluster Office for Yemen and the GCC organized a training for women journalists based in Mukalla, Hadhramaut governorate, Yemen from 13 to 24 August 2017.

UNESCO undertook this initiative as part of its efforts to support Yemeni media in promoting peace and dialogue and based on gaps identified by local partners in assisting the media sector in times of crisis, including the need for capacity-building opportunities to respond to the lack of representation of women journalists in the newsroom in certain areas of Yemen and the lack of representation of women's stories and voices in local and foreign media content

The training was led by Saeed Al-Batati, freelance journalist based in Mukalla and regular contributor to foreign media including Gulf News, Al Jazeera English, New York Times, the Guardian and Foreign Policy, and implemented by the Hadhramout Establishment for Human Development (HEHD), a local non-profit organization.

As part of the course, trainees wrote stories on themes such as cultural heritage, response to the humanitarian crisis, the situation of IDPs, migration to Europe and women's rights.

Commenting on the workshop, Sarah Ba-Gubair, who was among the group of trainees, said she learned a lot from this capacity-building opportunity including on “visual journalism, the importance of analysis, gathering facts and pitching new ideas to editors and foreign media outlets". "We definitely need more Yemeni women journalists in the media sector because it is so important to highlight women's stories and show the rest of the world what we are currently going through," she added.

Saeed Al Batati, the lead trainer for the workshop said: "Despite the significant demand for news and updates from southern Yemen, no single bilingual female journalists works as a reporter for local and foreign media outlets. Highly qualified English speaking women have the potential to fill this gap in reporting provided they are equipped with advanced skills in journalism".

Shaim bin Othman, who was also trained over the past ten days, stressed the importance of the workshop given the present context and said it opened her eyes to new possibilities for her future. "I have now more knowledge to write news and produce quality reports that will allow me to keep up with the situation in the country and report information to people living in Mukalla," she said.

Dr. Saleh Aram, Chairman of HEHD, added: "There is a huge gap in local English-language media, especially, in the number of female journalists in the newsroom. We hope this workshop can contribute to providing the media sector with equipped journalists to contribute to its development".

The training focused on advanced journalism skills such as media ethics, safety guidelines and digital safety (using UNESCO Reporters Without Borders Safety Guide for Journalists), thematic sessions on lifeline programming, writing on cultural heritage but also on techniques to increase their visibility and pitch stories to foreign editors. The trainees were also asked to conduct practical exercises by conducting interviews and write stories based on the information collected.

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