Project addresses gender stereotypes, sexism in Senegal’s online media

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Project addresses gender stereotypes, sexism in Senegal’s online media

WACC is partnering with the organization Communautés Africaines to enhance the gender sensitivity of web journalists in Senegal and advance positive, non-sexist portrayals of women in digital news media, including better representation of women in reporting of gender-based violence (GBV).

Women are under-represented in online media content in Senegal even though there has been a strong feminization of digital media, notes Médoune Seck, executive director of Communautés Africaines.

“We have observed that online media, in their treatment of news, are developing gender stereotypes and increasingly offending the sensitivity and integrity of women in their content,” he says.

The project has a particular focus on improving coverage of GBV, which the latest edition of WACC’s Global Media Monitoring Project (GMMP) determined is often problematic in digital news.

When online media report on cases of GBV, “women and girls are under-represented or absent as historical voices, and [survivors] are most often portrayed in stereotypical ways,” notes Seck.

He adds that the training Communautés Africaines has done with media professionals in Senegal has shown that most journalists are unfamiliar with concepts of gender equality and that both male and female journalists often lack gender sensitivity.

The project is focusing on 20 online media outlets registered with the Ministry of Communication in Senegal, monitoring their content to document the representativeness and portrayal of women and girls in reporting on cases of GBV.

The monitoring tracks a range of indicators such as the number of women seen or heard in media reports on sexual harassment or assault, and the number of women and girls cited in media content as GBV survivors or eyewitnesses. The project is also keeping a record of the percentage of stories dealing with gender equality issues.

“Our concerns are … specific to women and girls, in the sense that they have very limited visibility in media spheres, and are much more victims of violence in the media and have no say in the treatment of news,” says Seck.

Developing gender-sensitive media

To promote gender-sensitive online news, the WACC partner is working with a journalist from each of the 20 media outlets. The project aims to develop a guide for reporting on GBV with recommendations to ensure balanced, egalitarian coverage free from violence, discrimination, and gender stereotypes.

Further, Communautés Africaines is drawing up a gender equality charter that news outlets can use to put into practice their commitment to addressing all forms of GBV in media content.

Seck says the project is rooted in engaging with the media to foster accountability. “[We’re] involving them throughout the implementation process, building their capacities, gathering their commitment, and providing them with ongoing support to ensure that the press takes responsibility.”

Red and white graphic for Sustainable Development Goal 5 with "Gender Equality" and the symbols for male and female with an = sign in the middle of their overlapping circlesCommunautés Africaines plans to continue quarterly monitoring well after the project’s official end date to ensure that progress made towards more gender-sensitive reporting is maintained.

The WACC partner is convinced that the project will have positive results long beyond its implementation period. “[We’re raising] the level of representation of women and girls as a positive image and historical voice in content,” says Seck.

Photo: Media monitors with Communautés Africaines in Senegal prepare for the 6th edition of the GMMP.