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Saturday Feature
Media in advancing the cause of women
Munima Sultana

          The International Women's Day (IWD) has experienced many ebbs and flows since inception of the day. Started with achieving the rights to wage and working hours, this day is now a special day for millions of women from Alaska to Zambia to push the women's issue onto the political agenda. And with the passage of time, this day is now a day of celebration for both men and women involved in different organisations holding programmes befitting the occasion.
In the country, still the IWD initiates a never-ending debate on the necessity of women's day or gender discrimination among both male and female colleagues in many offices. But the day contributes immensely to achieving women's rights in the country with the active participation of women and human rights organisations.
However, the day was observed this year in a different way. The media this year highlighted the significance of the day in a different manner unlike the previous years by focussing on issues of women and empowerment from their own perspective. Among these, "Prothom Alo" led the path by allowing its women colleagues to carry out the entire job of the day -- from news selection to publishing. Each of the pages of this leading daily was designed under a woman and the role of the editor was also performed by its Assistant Editor who is a woman. As usual, the daily also published a supplement on women's success and challenges.
Other dailies also performed well. The national dailies including New Age, News Today, Amar Desh, Bhorer Kagoj, Samokal, Janakantha, Amader Somoi and Naya Digonto gave a special treatment to the day with different reports covered on front page to last page. The majority of the reporters of these reports were women and there was at least one post editorial published along with the editorial on IWD.
Among these papers, Amar Desh and Naya Digonto also brought out a special page on women. But the performance of Ittefaq, Inqilab, Jugantor etc was also satisfactory as they also gave space for women on front page of their respective papers.
Although all these successes may have link with the UNESCO challenge, thrown to the world media to allow women to participate and play their role in the decision-making process of the media, a number of dailies carried the responsibility as part of their yearly programme. Still the challenge remains for the media and this time it is the continuation of the trend.
UNESCO threw the challenge when the Global Media Monitoring report, which comes after five years of intervention since 1995, painted a dismal picture of the world media including Bangladesh that media gives ignorable space for women in news or newsmakers.
Gender in Media Forum (GIMF), a forum of civil society members, which was involved in the study of the local media as a partner of the Global Media Monitoring Project, also deserved the credit to create media awareness about the UNESCO challenge.
Still the time has not come to claim the total success. The trend, started this year, cannot be shelved for a yearly programme. GMMP has found that the media is yet to give women its due space in its mainstream news and role in the decision making. As the report, known as GMMP, was prepared with data collected by observing different print and electronic media in a single day on February 16, 2005 from 76 countries, its credibility cannot be ignored.
GIMF which later prepared the Bangladesh chapter report from the data collected on that day showed that despite the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition being women, they were in news in only 26 per cent reports and only 18 per cent news were reported by females. Women's presence in all kinds of reports including economics, commerce, crime and violence, politics and governance, society and law, science and sports was insignificant. 91 per cent reports carried comments of men as experts and only nine per cent comments were of women.
All the findings of reports of the GMMP's local chapter showed an enormous gap between men and women and this has thrown a challenge to the media in the coming years to be more serious about gender issues.
There is no doubt about the role the media can play in this connection. It plays the vital role in socialising and guiding the society. This change cannot be brought about only by observing the day ceremoniously, rather its implication is necessary throughout the year. And women should "carpe diem" - seize the day.


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