Media to play stronger role to mainstream gender equality

“The media have a role to play in raising the participation of women in the peace and democratization process in Myanmar.”1909181_587647321325508_975077661_o

This call came at the end of the Second Ethnic Media Conference, organized by the Burma News International (BNI) and bringing together representatives of ethnic media and other stakeholders across the country who gathered for three days in Taungyi, Shan State, starting 4 March.

“Women’s voices are particularly important because they represent the majority population, which are often adversely affected by the ongoing armed conflicts and political dialogues. Women have an important stake in the political transition that is taking place in the country and it is important to mainstream gender views and perspectives through the media,” said Nan Pay Gay, who is BNI development officer and Editor-in-Chief of Karen Information Centre (KIC).

The conference recommended that the media and society at large must encourage women participation in decision making in the newsrooms, ensure diversity of voices in media reports and strive for gender policies that will institutionalize gender equality. There is also a need to enact and promote laws and policies that will encourage women’s empowerment and protection at all levels.

The conference also supported the call for a more ethical media that will uphold the rights and dignity of all peoples, with an emphasis on women, as enshrined in the Convention to End Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW).

The media should also lead the way by applying fair and equitable standards for women media workers, who are often discriminated in terms of responsibilities and wages, while ensuring adequate mechanisms in place to combat sexual harassment and violence against women.

The conference was organized by the Burma News International (BNI), a network of 12 ethnic media that mainly operated in exile for more than a decade, to strengthen ethnic voices in the country’s media landscape.

A dedicated panel and workshop on gender mainstreaming during the conference discussed challenges and the experiences from the perspectives of media, labour rights, women empowerment and rights groups.

The experts in the panel and workshop were Ne Mo Hlaing (journalist and labour activist), Thin Thin Aung (Consultant Editor, Mizzima Media Group for Gender and Diversity), Mi Kun Chan Non (Vice-President,¬ Mon Women’s Organization) and May Thingyan Hein (Editor-in-Chief and CEO of Myit Ma Kha Media Group).

The main challenges identified included gender stereotyping and commodification of women through the media, limited opportunities for women in education and employment, and cultural structures that restrict women’s capacities.

Over 200 representatives of ethnic media, civil society organizations, ceasefire groups, government, and political parties from the seven states and region participated in the conference themed “Building Networks Among Ethnic Media in Myanmar”. The first conference was held in April 2013 in Mawlamyine, Mon State.

Burma News International and SEAPA
6 March 2014