IWD 2016: SAWM calls for gender equality

Committed to fair gender portrayal within and outside the media, South Asian Women in Media (SAWM) Sri Lanka, marks International Women’s Day 2016 with a call for journalists to stand up for gender equality and make fair gender portrayal a professional and ethical aspiration, similar to respect for accuracy, fairness and honesty.

One of the greatest challenges we face as journalists, is to resist the culture of casual stereotype in our everyday work. There are fixed images, deeply entrenched prejudices and biased reflexes that pose challenges to journalists and the media. If we are to truly ‘Step It Up for Gender Equality’ as the Day has been themed by the UN, we have to confront these biases and prejudices in our newsrooms, and promote gender equality, both within the working environment and in the representation of women.

There is an urgent need for a discourse to highlight the issue of fair gender portrayal in the news agenda, and SAWM will, as part of its International Women’s Day activities, initiate this discourse by taking a critical look at how the media tackles the issue of Sri Lankan’s migrant labour.

The issue is of great significance as 49% of the 1.8 million Sri Lankans, or 1/10th of the population, who work as international migrant workers are women, the majority of them unskilled. Yet, there is no reportage through a feminist or gender lens.

Women journalists themselves have covered women migrants in an event-based manner, despite their economic contribution. There has been no discussion on the recently introduced protectionist policies that restrict women from their right to migrant and have a livelihood. The portrayal of these women has been among the worst, shown as weak, poor, victimised and vulnerable.

SAWM will in the coming weeks hold a workshop to orient a select number of women journalists, working in all three languages, on reporting on this vital issue, breaking the current stereotypes, looking through the gender lens at policy and practice and at the women who line the Sri Lankan economy.

SAWM Sri Lanka Chapter