Survey

Gender equality in the media and media content

Produced in 2022

Côte d'Ivoire, Ghana, Niger, Democratic republic of Congo

Survey on gender equality in the media and media content

In brief

This study details and deepens the practices and needs in the fight against sexist stereotypes in the media of four sub-Saharan African countries. This strategic document feeds the agency's reflection on the implementation of new projects to support gender equality. A global struggle to free up women's access to positions of responsibility and enable them to deal with certain issues.

Female media professionals express needs that relate to their personal development and empowerment. From a more technical point of view, training in digital tools should be considered to foster the empowerment of women journalists.

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Survey on gender equality in the media and media content

Introduction

CFI, the French media development agency, supports fair, well-balanced representation of gender in the media as well as the basic principle of freedom of expression. It hopes to develop new projects in Sub-Saharan Africa to support gender equality in the media and foster better representation of women as experts and agents of change, when all too often they have been under-represented or portrayed stereotypically in the media. Calling on women more as sources of opinion, expertise and leadership in the media is actually a great way of helping to achieve the fifth Sustainable Development Goal (“Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls”).

Based on this premise, CFI commissioned an accurate, in-depth survey from GRET, to look at practices and needs with a view to fighting sexist stereotypes in media content and promoting gender equality in media outlets across Sub-Saharan Africa.

This survey had two main goals:
- Report on gender equality in the media in four countries across Sub-Saharan Africa: Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana, Niger and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
- Draw up a strategic document pinpointing the needs of industry players in these four countries, along with recommendations to inform the agency’s stance on designing and implementing new projects to support gender equality.

2/ Discrimination and violence at work

Second-class workers?

In Ghana, gender inequality especially translates into the hyper-sexualisation of women in TV and radio. The phenomenon has affected both TV and radio since the advent of online broadcasting, pairing sound with footage. In many respects, their ensuing star status is apparently exploited by media directors. Shamima Muslim, a former radio journalist with star status and founder of the Association for Women in Media Africa (AWMA) stated that young girls dreamt as much of becoming journalists as actors or supermodels. Women in media are expected to have very smart clothing, sophisticated hairdos and expertly-manicured nails, yet are not allocated any funds for the costs such high-maintenance grooming entails. They actually earn less than their male colleagues, who are generally subjected to far less pressure regarding their outward appearance.

This exploitation of women’s sexuality has also been observed in Democratic Republic of Congo. A manager at Radio Okapi, one of the most popular media outlets nationwide, summed the situation up with the ironic: “People getting up in the morning prefer to hear the voice of a pretty woman on the radio.”

“I have to produce three or four times as much as the men if I want to get noticed.”

In Democratic Republic of Congo as in the other three countries covered by the survey, women in media are mostly restricted to subordinate roles and soft news, and are kept away from important subjects, a prime example being politics. It is an important subject, and furthermore, reporters covering politics are better paid. Most media outlets operate on tight budgets, and pay their reporters a mere pittance, if at all in certain cases. Reporters thus mainly live off the money paid to them by the organisations and individuals who invite them to cover their news. The money paid via such schemes is given various names, such as “coupage” (cut), “per diem”, “travelling expenses” etc. Among reporters scrambling for payment, women are greatly penalised, since they are prevented from covering the best-paid news.

“I have to produce three or four times as much as the men if I want to get noticed.” To shut down prejudice about their perceived lack of skills, women journalists feel obliged to work more than their male colleagues. “We need to go the extra mile” was a recurring statement at the brainstorming group organised with women journalists in Ghana. Women are also frequently reproached for absenteeism for family reasons or health issues. While it is true that they are often absent for such reasons, this is because the fathers of their children are rarely involved in childcare and a lack of decent sanitary facilities means that media outlets fail to cater to the minimum comfort and intimacy requirements of women on their period for example.

Sexual harassment

In all the countries being surveyed, sexual harassment is rarely reported to upper management or legal authorities, whether occurring in the newsroom or out in the field working with sources of information. It is thus notoriously difficult to assess and quantify, but all those consulted for the survey stated that it is very common. They contended that it is one of the main reasons why many women journalists abandon their career (alongside a lack of opportunities for greater pay or responsibility). Newsrooms have no in-house schemes to fight harassment. At the rare media outlets that do have one, staff rarely even know of its existence.

sex

 

Brainstorming groups have helped to confirm that all forms of harassment were a core issue. Many accounts were given and the subject was long discussed. Harassment is “an ordeal for women journalist” (Côte d’Ivoire), who constantly have to ward off “indecent proposals”. Sexual blackmail is very common, cropping up in instances of hiring, or promotion, and even demanded in return for sharing information: “Some give in to it, others don’t.” (Democratic Republic of Congo). “Some women think sleeping your way to the top is the only way up.” (Ghana).

Harassment is “an ordeal for women journalist” , who constantly have to ward off “indecent proposals”

Women in media have no recourse when up against such practices. The only weapons at their disposal are “strength of character” (to reject the proposal) or “being crafty” (going to an appointment with a male colleague, lying by saying their husband is coming to take them home, etc.). In the newsroom, these situations are mostly “resolved” by the departure of the disappointed female journalist than by reporting or writing up the perpetrator of harassment.

Cyber-harassment, violence and macho behavior online

As public personalities henceforth with an online presence, women journalists are disproportionately targeted in social media. Macho comments along the lines of “she should be making babies for her husband” and criticism of their physical appearance are recurrent, and can scale up to hate campaigns and even, in some cases, threats of murder, rape and violence. In Ghana, cyber-criminality is extremely common and phenomena like revenge porn and sexual deep-fakes affect women journalists more than their male colleagues who suffer far less.

After graduation, where do the women go?

“When they leave, we don’t know where they go. They are certainly not very prominent in the media,” noted Agnès Kraidy, first female Chief Editor of the state-owned daily newspaper in Côte d’Ivoire Fraternité-Matin who founded ResFJPC in 2014. In the countries being surveyed, as in the west, there are now more women than men studying in schools of journalism. In Côte d’Ivoire, this proportion among students is not reflected in newsrooms.

Progress, stagnation, regression?

“Thirty years on, we get the impression that we have really stagnated, or even regressed,” deplored Agnès Kraidy. “Côte d’Ivoire is very backward in terms of women’s and gender issues, whereas on paper, it looks like a modern country.” She contends that public decision-makers have shown very little commitment to resolving gender issues, which does not help to change mentalities. In Ghana, career breaks for maternity leave seem generally well accepted, and given that society is generally maternity-friendly, the introduction of flexi-time is mostly easy to obtain. However women are still hampered by the various difficulties of juggling children and career. The recent AWMA report notes that 94% of media outlets do not have specific facilities for young mothers: only 6% have a breastfeeding mothers’ room, and even fewer (2%) have childcare facilities.

Another observation from organisations that promote gender equality: women who have been promoted to positions of responsibility at media outlets in the past 20 years are from the first generation of activists. They often show little empathy for their young female colleagues, accusing them of lacking that famous “strength of character”.

“We belittle ourselves,” observed Marie-Laure Zakry, the head of the Women & Media Observatory in Côte d’Ivoire. This institution was set up by the Women: Occupy the Media! project from the Institut PANOS Institute West Africa (IPAO/PIWA). Facing up to these various difficulties, many women reporters are discouraged from heading out into the field, and thus prefer to remain in the newsroom, in less prestigious positions with much less exposure. These elements may also explain the fact that there are more women working as anchors or hosting TV programmes, where they are reduced to introducing reports produced by men.

“Having a daughter working as a reporter is now a source of “pride” in families, and they have increasingly gained respect as professionals alongside their male colleagues.”

In the Democratic Republic of Congo, the social image of women journalists is nevertheless tending to improve. While previously they were seen to be “everyman’s woman”, according to Anna Mayimona, president of Ucofem, having a daughter working as a reporter is now a source of “pride” in families, and they have increasingly gained respect as professionals alongside their male colleagues.

In an interview with Free Press Unlimited (FPU) in late February 2021, Head Coordinator of the Global Media Monitoring Project (GMMP) Sarah Macharia reported “small steps in the right direction” over the past five years. “Change is slight, but there is change.”

Focus on Ghana

Media coverage of gender-related violence

In Ghana, In Ghana, very stereotypical coverage of gender-related violence in the media was analysed in a 2018 study published by the international review BMC Women’s Health, which invites specialists in women’s healthcare to write for them. According to the study, rape and feminicide are covered as minor news or crime passionnel. Each occurrence is considered as an individual event, without giving any contextual data such as the prevalence of violence in society. Photos of those involved are often published, along with graphic descriptions and many sexual facts and details. At best, the woman is depicted as a powerless victim, at worst they are victim-blamed with reference to infidelity, a refusal to pay back debts or the failure to report the repeated rape of a minor by her own father. All of which tends to exonerate the perpetrator.

One article even went as far as to detail the reasoning of the rapist of a 6-year-old child, who claimed to have perpetrated the crime out of accumulated frustration with his poor marital sex life. These reports provide plenty of fodder for court case columns, yet are rarely followed up with articles reporting on the consequences for the perpetrator, with the knock-on effect of maintaining a sense of impunity. The study explained that “This type of coverage means the public does not have access to important information regarding gender-related violence as a public health issue.”

This study focussed on five media outlets catering to the general public: three newspapers, the Ghanaian Times, Daily Graphic and Daily Guide, and two radio stations, Peace FM and Joy FM.


NB: The term used in this article “defile” is that used for the rape of minors in Ghana. A term with Biblical connotations meaning to soil, and make impure.

3/ Women in media content

Invisible women, silent women

In patriarchal societies, women are prohibited from speaking out publicly, or are otherwise frowned upon. Media outlets who want to explore women’s issues are greatly hindered by the sheer weight of the culture.
In Ghana, female politicians are often mere tokens; their presence is tolerated simply as “proof” of catering to gender equality in social groups and political organisations. A respondent from also highlighted “the intimidating environment of male dominance” in TV studios and the aggressive nature of questions asked by men hosting programmes: “This often discourages women from participating in these programmes or giving interviews.”

Similar phenomena have been observed in the other countries covered by the survey and survey participants all insisted on the necessity of leading initiatives at media outlets jointly with activist organisations working to empower women in society in general.

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They also emphasised the importance of training women slated for interviews to take the floor and adopt a leadership stance. They also propound the creation of directories of female experts, such as that created by Ucofem in Democratic Republic of Congo. These directories help media outlets find female experts more easily, in whatever field, and thus ensure greater parity in the choice of guests invited to comment on or illustrate the news.

Stereotypes, taboos and self-censorship in content

For women interviewed in the Côte d’Ivoire press, their marital status is often specified alongside their name, which is never the case for men unless they specifically demand it. Women themselves often introduce themselves as “the wife of”, even activist feminists. A woman is only considered a “real woman” if she is a wife and mother, which adds another layer of difficulty for single young journalists, as deplored by one of the participants in the brainstorming group in Niger.
Furthermore, journalists felt some reticence in tackling taboo subjects in society. In Democratic Republic of Congo, they might expose themselves to the risk of being frowned upon in if they talk of sexual and reproductive health, while in Côte d’Ivoire, homosexuality and abortion are subjects that nobody talks about. Genital mutilation and female sexuality are seldom addressed in Ghana, where sexual taboo is particularly strong, and women in the brainstorming groups in Niger showed great reticence in discussing religion.

“Generally speaking, traditional media outlets in the four countries covered by the survey took little interest in concerns specific to women.”

In this respect, the issue of marital rape led to a fairly tense debate: one of the participants holding very firm opinions on the subject was at odds with several of her female colleagues who deemed that the very concept of marital rape was incompatible with Islam, since wives were obliged to always be available according to their husbands’ whims. The rest of the group considered that marital rape is a fact of society that should be highlighted.
Generally speaking, traditional media outlets in the four countries covered by the survey took little interest in concerns specific to women. Several directors of newspapers in Niger and DRC stated that their newspapers merely covered activities in connection with the International Day for Women’s Rights on 8 March, along with conferences and workshops on gender organised by international development partners. In Ghana, where ratings are all, chief editors truly failed to understand the point of covering certain women’s issues. According to the journalists from the brainstorming group in Accra: “it doesn’t make the front page, it’s not a matter of universal concern.”

Some TV channels, specifically the state-owned channel RTI2 in Côte d’Ivoire, make an exception and broadcast programmes produced by and for women. These programmes highlight women’s achievements and cover subjects of special interest for women, sometimes attacking sexist stereotypes head on.
New media outlets are more inclined to handle these subjects, even those which were not created by and for women and which have an editorial line focusing on the women’s issues. In Côte d’Ivoire, Félix Bony, director of Abidjan.net and the group Weblogy (which publishes the women’s website Africawoman.com), introduces himself as a “promoter for gender”, hired for women, and practising in-house parity. In Democratic Republic of Congo, the nation’s key pure player, News.cd, set up a “gender issues desk”, covering many subjects in a gender-sensitive manner.

femmes photos

 

Focus on Côte d'Ivoire

When a woman takes over the Côte d’Ivoire football team

On 16 January 2021, the state-run newspaper in Côte d’Ivoire Fraternité Matin, devoted an article to the appointment of Mariam Jacqueline Gabala, senator and prominent personality in civil society, to head the Normalisation Committee of the Football Federation in Côte d’Ivoire (Conor-FIF). FIFA, the international football federation had asked this ad-hoc body to clean up the Côte d’Ivoire federation, which was in a state of crisis.

The author of the article listed the senator’s many qualities and professional skills (specialist in finance and turning businesses round, head of a think tank etc.) yet without avoiding sexist stereotypes. “Mariam Jacqueline Gabala, wife of Dao” was thus called an “Iron Lady”, the go-to cliché trotted out to describe female leaders who play hard when they need to make themselves heard in a man’s world, applied to the Israeli Golda Meir, the Indian Indira Gandhi and the British Margaret Thatcher. The journalist was apparently not afraid of appearing to contradict himself, since he also stated that this so-called Iron Lady could bring a “woman’s touch” (softness? The art of compromising?) to put a stop to the “animosity among the men and women working in football at the national level”.

The senator’s legitimacy to manage the world of football seems to have been questioned since her main qualification was cited as being the mother of five boys: “Mariam Jacqueline Gabala Dao loves and deals in everything. Except football. Yet the sport has come to her. ‘I like to say I’m the mother of five boys. You can just imagine when it’s football day at home. Football is not that foreign to me. I vibrate with my sons,’ she confided. But does the new boss of football have any idea of the rivalry between the Gx and other Pro-pros?”

(Source : fratmat.info)

 

4/ Perspectives: supporting equality in the media

The main needs expressed by women in media

Women in all four countries unanimously cited changing practices and mentalities of media outlet directors – the vast majority being men – as an aspiration, referring to harassment from directors, directors being incapable of dealing with others harassing women, professional disdain and denial of competence, lack of confidence in women and their capacities, prejudice etc. “They are the main obstacle,” according to most people consulted during the survey. So media directors and chief editors need urgently to be initiated into gender-sensitive management and the means that can be implemented to fight harassment, facilitate giving greater responsibilities to women and avoid stereotyping men and women during news coverage.

The brainstorming groups also pointed out that there are chief editors working in a spirit of solidarity and empathy towards their female journalists and that, conversely, when a woman takes a position of responsibility at a media outlet, she doesn’t necessarily display any more empathy towards other female professionals (the term “torturer” was used in Côte d’Ivoire). In Niger, participants recounted the experience of woman-towoman mentorships in media outlets set up by the APAC (Association for Professional African Women in Communication). According to them, this system whereby senior workers help newcomers to the profession, can be effective to fight intergenerational rivalry in the newsroom.

Another need expressed almost unanimously is that of personal development, for women journalists and their contacts, especially experts and members of civil society. This echoes women’s awareness of interiorising an inferiority complex imposed by their society, and which prevents them from speaking up and means they belittle themselves. Workshops to foster self-confidence and reinforce their leadership skills, and training courses to learn to communicate with media outlets, thus seem indispensable to drive change.

“[…]This echoes women’s awareness of interiorising an inferiority complex imposed by their society, and which prevents them from speaking up and means they belittle themselves.”
The need for better training in techniques and tools for online media is a fourth important aspect emphasised, especially during the brainstorming group in Kinshasa. The creation of their own online media has become a way for women journalists to free themselves from the patriarchy that still prevails in established media outlets in Democratic Republic of Congo.
On the subject of training courses in gender-sensitive journalism, some needs mentioned are extremely precise: learning to address subjects that are taboo or delicate (sexuality, infertility, abortion, domestic violence, marital rape, child marriage etc.) without shocking or putting themselves at odds with society or “coming across as a slut”.

Generally speaking, participants underscored the need for more lasting initiatives from national and international operators and better selection of participants in training courses and workshops (“it’s always the same people who go”). They deplored a lack of reporting back by people who have been trained, as well as a mismatch with realities in the field, when allocating benefits for the production of content, for example, and careless selection of beneficiaries.

Other proposais put forward by women in media

- A “hotline” to report harassment.
- Discussion groups on harassment for women working in media.
- Training schemes on rights for women journalists.
- Proposals for legal solutions.
- Publications and the vulgarisation of studies conducted on harassment in the media.
- An “I speak up, I exist” campaign, to raise awareness among women as to the importance of speaking up.
- Awareness-raising operations on the importance and the role of women within society to stamp out prejudice.
- The development of fiction to address taboo subjects without shocking.

Focus on Niger

An Ode to Women and their Leadership on Actu Niger

In August 2019, an article from online media outlet Actu Niger reviewed a documentary film “La Inna du Gobir”. This 29’ film by director Ado Abdu won the 2020 public award at the international film festival Vues d’Afrique. It focuses on “La Inna”, a royal ranking second according to court protocol in the Sultanate of Gobir. The article, written by a man, is full of praise, both for the film itself and its message:
“Looking beyond its impeccable technical quality, it is today a rare film showing a woman not as a victim, but in a position of leadership and responsibility within her community. “La Inna du Gobir” is a true “female success story” in a Hausa kingdom in Niger, better known today as the “Sultanate of Gobir”. In a world dominated by Judeo-Christian and Muslim patriarchies, the survival of this tradition is a perfect example showing that women have had positive roles in African societies, contrary to the degrading and dehumanising clichés usually shown (rape, sex slaves, inheritance, kidnapping and torture) typical of their current status (…).
As the second personality in the kingdom, the “Inna” is adulated and respected, not only for her royal blood, but because she wields the greatest powers in the kingdom. In pre-Islamic Gobir society, her power was even more significant, in that she held the role of “Chief Priestess” and oversaw almost all ceremonies to worship genies and other “invisible beings”, indispensable for all farming and military campaigns (…). (…).
For the symbolic aspect, this film glorifies women in general, with living accounts of relics from a prestigious past. A breath of fresh air for women from all over the world who have seen their rights and living conditions regress everywhere.
(Source : actuniger.com)

Conclusion

This survey focussed on gender inequality issues, sexual discrimination and gender-related violence, in a specific line of business: the media.

The initial document analysis phase helped to get acquainted with the situation and day-to-day realities for female media professionals in the four countries covered by the survey. The existing literature on integrating gender in the media of these countries, as well as gender barometers and monitoring in the media have brought hard data to corroborate areas of inequality as perceived or expressed by stakeholders. Quantitative analysis by the 2015 Global Media Monitoring Project (GMMP) specifically helped to gain an overview of trends: fewer women than men work in media outlets and only in a handful of roles (presenter, host) or on subjects typically assigned to women (healthcare and family). These trends have mostly been borne out by the first interviews conducted with journalists from the four countries, reporting harassment, discrimination and sexist violence, both verbal and physical.
The study of legal frameworks governing the media yielded a variety of situations. Harassment and gender-related violence are rarely reported since the subject is deemed taboo, including in Niger where the legal framework governing the media is more gender-sensitive than in the other countries. The Democratic Republic of Congo is an exception, with these issues being addressed explicitly by women in media.
With an online survey and the organisation of brainstorming groups in each of the countries, women journalists have been invited to spark the debate on the difficulties and gender discrimination they have experienced. The accounts given are precious, sometimes touching, sometimes laced with anger, but always pertinent and constructive.

These discussions have revealed that the priority for female media professionals is to fight harassment , attributable to both employers and sources of information. It is as much a matter of preventing sexual harassment in the newsroom, as of raising awareness among media outlet directors so they can act as allies for women reporters subjected to harassment out in the field. This is part of a broader struggle to stamp out discrimination and sexist stereotyping which hinders women’s access to certain positions and prevents them from reporting on certain subjects.

“[…] the priority for female media professionals is to fight harassment, attributable to both employers and sources of information.”

Female media professionals also expressed empowerment needs related to personal development and capacity for leadership. Fostering the development of self-confidence among women journalists with an inferiority complex is important, perhaps the most important lead. Solidarity among women journalists and the sisterhood, with schemes for senior women to mentor and support junior staff, also seem to be a pertinent response to this need to bolster self-confidence. From a more technical point of view, training courses to use digital tools must be envisaged as an extra means to empower women journalists, who can free themselves of male dominance more easily by setting up their own online media outlet.

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Survey on gender equality in the media and media content

Method

This survey was conducted from October 2020 to March 2021. Firstly, the consultants working on the survey reviewed existing documentation, and invited resource persons to provide support in the four countries being surveyed.
This review was then followed up with around 20 virtual interviews with stakeholders in each country: journalists, media outlet directors, national media regulation bodies, journalist organisations, grass-roots organisations working to achieve gender equality and international development partners. These interviews were to provide quality information to help draw up a report and inform strategy regarding initiatives to be taken to better factor in gender equality in media outlets across the region.

Furthermore, an online survey for women in media was drawn up in French and English, harnessing the input and perspectives of local resource persons. Conducted from January to March 2021, this survey garnered answers from 63 journalists from the four countries in question.
This consultation was followed by brainstorming groups in all four countries. These tools (interviews, surveys and brainstorming groups) aimed first to document the general situation for female media professionals in the countries being surveyed and, secondly to list their needs and expectations in terms of support and reinforcement of capacities.

Definitions

Throughout this text, “gender” refers to the social construct of male and female identity and ensuing social relationships. These social norms have led to gender inequality, and those flouting these norms can then experience discrimination. While gender does not determine all social interaction, it does inform interaction, and intersects with said norms, and may likewise induce dominant behaviour. This survey focussed especially on gender inequality issues, sexual discrimination and gender-related violence, in a specific industry: the media.
NB: Issues involving sexual orientation and gender identity were only addressed as fringe issues during content reviews.

This survey was produced by GRET (Research and Technological Exchange Group), a non-government organisation in international development with 14 branches worldwide, working since 1976 to come up with sustainable, innovative answers to the challenges of poverty and inequality.

Authors and contributors
Authors: Nicole Chavranski, Mélanie Canino, Marie-Christine Lebret
contributors: Amy Noma (Niger), Lauriane Kizamina (République démocratique du Congo), Augustin Zézé Tapé (Côte d’Ivoire), Dulci Delali Atipoe (Ghana)
Photographs: Olympia de Maismont - DR