A new voluntary organisation intends to promote gender equality in and through the media by providing training and offering a critical space to drive policy for better balance. 

Called ‘Mediating Women’, the NGO will act as a media watchdog and speak up in cases of gender imbalance – such as ‘manels’, which are panels made entirely of men, or in instances when adverts hypersexualise women.

“Media is the pulse of a democratic process. We know that countries that have gender equality have a balanced representation in the media. If you want to check if a country is democratic enough, look at its media,” said Prof. Brenda Murphy – the woman behind the NGO.

Women appear in the media 24 per cent of the time on a global level and, when they do appear, they are most likely to be portrayed as victims, or commodified. Malta is no different.

This emerged from the most recent Global Media Monitoring Project 2015, a global research project that gives a snapshot of gender portrayal in the media over a 24-hour period. The project is carried out every five years with the data from 2015 showing little change when compared to 2000.

Most women in media portrayed as victims or commodified

As little changed over the years, Prof. Murphy – the GMMP’s national coordinator and a professor in Gender Studies within the University of Malta’s Faculty for Social Wellbeing – decided to do something about it.

“As I was writing yet another report, I realised I was saying the same things. I’ve been making the same recommendations for 20 years and nothing has shifted. One of my recommendations has been about having an NGO to improve media literacy and training for journalists and women. If I’m not going to create that NGO, who is?” she said.

Mediating Women will be a repository for all related research and offer training for journalists, educators and women. It is already working with UNESCO to train educators to create a course in gender in the media.

The NGO will also lobby for changes in legislation and policy and act as a media watchdog. It will work towards internal changes in the media, following 2017 research that showed there still was a sexist environment in the media industry, as in other industries.

“We need an internal culture change. This is not necessarily about harassment but about opportunities, flexible hours, better childcare.

“This impacts on journalists even more because the culture of news media is that deadlines are tight and women are less available due to childcare responsibilities. But that can be shared. I do believe legislation drives change. But only if enforced. We will lobby for this change across the board,” she said.

Find out more about Mediating Women by visiting their Facebook page or website www.mediatingwomen.org.

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