Christian communicators say women treated unfairly by media

Sarah Macharia, opening plenary speaker at the Religion Communicators Council National Convention

Ecumenical News International
Daily News Service
1 April 2011
ENI-11-0164

by Chris Herlinger

Little Rock, Arkansas, 1 April (ENInews) — A more fair and balanced representation and portrayal of women in the media is one way journalists can help create a more equitable world, said a media observer and peace advocate.

"Fair and balanced news media representation holds the potential to enable the emergence of societies marked by non-hierarchical social relations that guard ... values of equality, justice and freedom from discrimination," Sarah Macharia, programme manager for media and gender justice of the Toronto-based World Association for Christian Communication (WACC), said 31 March at the annual convention of the Religion Communicators Council.

But Macharia, the keynote speaker, told communicators that based on WACC research, it will take 40 more years of change for there to be "gender parity" in the media.

Macharia based her conclusion on findings of the Global Media Monitoring Project, a WACC-supported study which, every five years since 1995, has examined the status of gender in the world news media.

Not surprisingly, "women are significantly under-represented in the news," Macharia said. Only 24 percent of people heard or read about in print, radio and television news are female and 76 percent are male, she said.

While that marks a "significant improvement from 1995, when only 17 percent of the people in the news were women," she said, "the world depicted in the news remains predominantly male. This picture is incongruent with a reality in which at least one half of the world’s population is female."

The study indicated that all regions of the world have made progress in the past five years but Latin America deserves special recognition "for its impressive performance, and now leads as the region with the highest percentage of stories that challenge stereotypes, 13 percent, after a quadruple increase since 2005."

Asked why there had been improvements in the portrayal of women in Latin American media, Macharia, a Kenya-born political economist, said it might have to do with the increasing prominence of women entering politics there.

The RCC is an interfaith association of U.S.-based religion communicators who work in print and electronic communication, advertising and public relations.

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