Making Women’s Day Work for Women: 2007 Media Challenge

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Following the highly successful challenge issued by the Media Monitoring Project (MMP) to the South African media in the previous years for the coverage of National Women’s Day, the MMP has decided to re-issue the challenge to the media this year: to mainstream women on National Women’s Day. Instead of the media merely concentrating on so called “women’s issues” and only on the celebrations that are set to take place on the 9th of August, the MMP challenges the media to fill their papers, radio broadcasts, television schedules and news programmes with women.

South African media clearly support the fight for gender equality, exerting an effort to raise awareness, and celebrate the importance of women. As a demonstration of their commitment, the MMP urges the media to take up the challenge and actively show their support for women this National Women’s Day. This year, MMP will not look into prominent women on business and government, rather, it will be focusing on “ordinary” women and their role in effecting social change.

How can media rise to the challenge? Some suggestions from the MMP:

  • Allow women engaged in social change initiatives to tell their own stories;
  • Fill entire news bulletins and newspaper editions with contributions from women;
  • Make women editors for the day, (it worked with Madiba why not Graca?);
  • Use women as sources in every story;
  • Use the same news agenda, but apply a woman’s perspective to each item;
  • Women can be found in all sectors of society, from business to academe to sports. Include women commentators, experts, workers, entertainers, nurses, leaders, teachers, doctors, lawyers, community leaders, among others
  • Encourage advertisers to participate. Advertisers can use this opportunity to be creative and come up with different, positive portrayals of women;
  • Diversify images and photographs of women;
  • Use women photographers, designers, producers, talk show hosts, DJs and directors;
  • Approach famous and so-called “ordinary” women to be guest writers for National Women’s Day.

Why the challenge?

Over the past eight years, the MMP has conducted an annual monitoring exercise of media coverage during the period in and around National Women’s Day. Consistently, the results have been characterised by a marked increase in the coverage of women and ‘women’s issues’ for the short period preceding the commemoration of the day. While such coverage tends to give women some of the credit they deserve, much of it still fails to celebrate and represent the diversity of women in South Africa.

Media coverage monitored in the past often focused on the role that women have played – and continue to play – in the democratic transformation of South Africa, in sharp contrast to coverage of women during the rest of the year, where the role of women is often trivialised and marginalised. While such coverage may be considered positive, unfortunately, the attention on women and women’s issues is short -lived. The MMP’s research shows that the focus on women in the media declines almost immediately after the 9th of August.

The MMP looks forward to the South African media’s response to this challenge. While the challenge is only for one day – the potential impact and positive spin-offs may be far reaching – including the creation of greater awareness and encouragement of more readers, listeners and viewers.


Questions, suggestions or comments: Contact: William Bird @ 082 887 1370 or mmpinfo@mediamonitoring.org.za

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