The Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA) joins the world in commemorating International Women’s Day, celebrated globally on March 8. On International Women’s Day 2015, the MFWA calls on the media in West Africa to increase its engagements with women and its coverage of women’s issues in its programming.
The United Nations has recognised the importance of gender equality and women’s empowerment in advancing development, democracy, and peace and security. However, gender inequalities in media representation have continued to frustrate women’s ability to use the media as a vehicle for empowerment and participation in governance.
The MFWA has highlighted these gender issues in its monitoring of women and the media, a critical area of concern under the unanimously adopted Beijing Platform for Action (1995) concerning gender equality and women’s empowerment. Even in Ghana, which boasts high levels of free expression protections, women face obstacles to participating in public discourse through the media. The MFWA found troubling disparities in the gender of featured individuals, discussants, and moderators and in the quantity of women’s issues discussed on radio programmes in Ghana during the period of June to November 2014.
“The media has the powerful ability to empower women to raise awareness about pressing issues in their communities,” said Anjali Manivannan, the MFWA Programme Officer for Free Expression Rights Monitoring and Campaigns. “It is thus essential that women have equal access to media platforms to seek, receive, and impart information in order to prioritise women’s issues, which in turn helps promote good governance and development.”
The media can help fulfill women’s right to freedom of expression and enable the realisation of other human rights by taking steps to facilitate women’s engagement with media platforms. The MFWA thus urges the media to fully and equally integrate women into programming and decision-making and help West Africa achieve its human rights and development goals.