Worldwide women and girls make up about half the population and need to be recognised and included in society and the media in all their forms, not only because it is socially fair or economically wise, but because it is morally right.
This imperative is firmly based on international principles of human rights and gender equity to which most nations of the world are committed and from whom observable change is required. The increasing importance of the media in most societies means that practitioners bear a great and growing responsibility to deliver those changes and drive development.
The Beijing Platform for Action for Equality, Development and Peace places specific obligations on the media, both in the way women participate and in how they are portrayed.
Objective 1 requires signatory nations and their citizens to ‘increase the participation and access of women to expression and decision-making in and through the media and new technologies of communication’.Objective 2 demands that governments and other organisations, businesses and individuals ‘promote a balanced and non-stereotyped portrayal of women in the media’.
To implement these principles, media organisations and individuals should take action including:
• Increase women’s roles in production and decision-making.
• Promote the presentation of non-stereotyped images and other portrayals of women.
• Refrain from presenting women as inferior beings and exploiting them as sex objects and commodities.
• Develop gender perspectives on issues of concern to communities, consumers and civil societies.
• Research and monitor progress on creating greater equity for women in the media.
• Promote training for media professionals and others in ways to overcome gender-based discrimination.
• Encourage networks and the sharing of information and expertise on gender issues.
• Create workplaces where the strengths and talents of men and women can flourish equally.
The great challenge for media organisations and professionals, for governments and for women and men in the wider society is to achieve these aims while preserving and progressing other human rights – including freedom of expression and personal advancement – and remaining true to virtues such as honesty, accuracy, openness and justice.