‘… it is essential to promote forms of communication that not only challenge the patriarchal nature of media but strive to decentralise and democratise them: to create media that encourage dialogue and debate; media that advance women and peoples' creativity; media that reaffirm women's wisdom and knowledge, and that make people into subjects rather than objects or targets of communication. Media which are responsive to people's needs’-The ‘Bangkok Declaration’, 1994
‘…Strategic objective J.1: Increase the participation and access of women to expression and decision-making in and through the media and new technologies of communication; Strategic objective J.2.: Promote a balanced and non-stereotyped portrayal of women in the media’
-Section J of the ‘Beijing Platform for Action’, 1995
WACC’s engagement with gender and communication began in 1987 with a series of regional consultations on ‘women and media’ and took place at a time when the role of women in development was slowly being recognized. These consultations culminated in the first-ever global conference on ‘Women Empowering Communication’ held in Bangkok in February 1994, organized by WACC in co-operation with Isis International and the International Women’s Tribune Centre and attended by over 430 people from 80 countries. At the conference, women from all over the world developed a series of strategies and resolutions for empowering women in and through the media in the ‘Bangkok Declaration’. Since then, the Bangkok Declaration and the recommendations contained in Section J of the Beijing Platform for Action of the 1995 UN Fourth World Conference on Women have shaped the aims of the WACC Media and Gender Justice Programme.
WACC supports women’s use of media for their own empowerment and for the development of their communities. It also advocates full and equal participation of women in public communication so that their multiple and complex interests, experiences and realities become part of the public agenda.
WACC undertakes a wide range of activities on gender and communication issues, including advocacy at national, regional and global levels, organizing conferences and training for media workers and communication activists, publishing resource materials, supporting women’s networking, media monitoring and research. Our work has resulted in an extensive network of individuals and organizations concerned with gender and communication issues, from grassroots activists to academics and church related groups and development NGOs.
The initiative Communication Rights and Public Voices: Gender and Communication supports civil society organisations to conduct gender-focussed media monitoring and to engage with media professionals on gender issues in media policy and practice.
The initiative’s focus is rooted in an understanding that gender inequalities in participation in and access to media limit their potential to become inclusive, democratic spaces. Biases, stereotyping and unbalanced reporting from a gender perspective normalize and further entrench unequal gender power relations at the root of discriminatory attitudes and practices.
Section J of the Beijing Platform for Action underscores the importance of media to the advancement of women. Non-governmental organisations and media professional associations are encouraged to establish ‘media watch groups that can monitor the media and consult with the media to ensure that women’s needs and concerns are properly reflected’.
Monitoring the media with a gender lens generates evidence useful for awareness creation and advocacy for change in media policy and practice.
WACC provides support to partner projects across the Global South that:
1. Monitor gender portrayal and representation in political, economic, and rural development news (agriculture, land rights, etc.) in major national or regional print, radio, television or internet news media.
2. Apply the evidence collected to build critical media literacy of media audiences to enable them effectively engage with media on gender issues in content and to applying the findings for more targeted media advocacy.