The consultations held in Bhopal and Jaipur emphasised on the need for the media and civil society to work together in building impactful campaigns around gender at local, regional and national level
“A converging point where the media and civil society can together build impactful campaigns around gender at local, regional and national level is the need of the hour.” This view was expressed by the civil society representatives during the consultations held in Bhopal and Jaipur with a group of journalists, government officials and United Nations agencies in February 2017.
As part of the Cross Learning and Exchange programme for journalists initiated by Girls Count, two consultations were organised with journalists on the issue of gender-biased sex selection within the larger framework of discrimination against women and girls. The consultations were organised by Samarthan and Shikshit Rojgar Kendra Prabandhak Samiti (SRKPS) respectively with support from Girls Count, National Foundation for India (NFI), United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and UN Women.
At the consultations, the journalists shared their experiences in the field and spoke about their expectations from civil society. The journalists and civil society representatives brainstormed and deliberated on strategies and interventions that could be taken up collectively in the near future.
Right from using the correct terminologies, running full-fledged media campaigns and the role of NGOs in building the discourse, the dialogues delved on ways in which media and civil society could engage on a higher level to address gender inequality.
Both civil society representatives as well as journalists highlighted the complimentary role they need to play while working on social issues and agreed that the impact of their collaboration can be exceptionally substantial.
The problems faced by the journalists in the newsroom were also discussed. The journalists at both the consultations said that it becomes difficult for them to cover an event or intervention as NGOs do not provide proper documents, background materials, etc. “As a result, the stories on women- and girls-related issues are not considered worth publishing by the editors and management,” informed the journalists. To overcome this challenge, it was suggested that the media should be involved right from the initiation of a campaign.
The journalists pointed out that media needs the support of NGOs to critically examine the facts by bringing up the issues in the public domain, thus paving way for public- and policy-level advocacy on the issue. “A sustained dialogue and experience sharing between media and civil society is central in bringing out enriching stories and in critically examining
existing policies and programmes,” said Ruby Sarkar, a journalist working with Deshbandhu in Madhya Pradesh.
Lack of incentives is also a major factor that demotivates them, the journalists said. They suggested that fellowships could be a way of engaging journalists with development issues. It was also mutually agreed upon that journalists in smaller cities and towns do not have the resource and exposure, hence such fellowships would encourage journalists to do stories on gender-related issues.
Mr P. Srinivasan from Hindustan Times, Jaipur, stressed upon the role of vernacular press in highlighting the local issues. He stated that many journalists and media houses have credibility issues with NGOs. “Many times NGOs come up with fraudulent stories about their work only in order to get publicity. We want genuine success stories that have made an impact.,” he added.
While talking about the successful implementation of the Pre-Conception and Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques (PCPNDT) Act in the state of Rajasthan and the series of decoy operations, Mr Naveen Jain, Mission Director, National Health Mission, Department of Medical, Health and Family Welfare, Government of Rajasthan, acknowledged the role media played in raising the issue. He, however, pointed out that sometimes there is a ‘risk’ involved in the initiative that the government takes up. Citing the example of the decoy operations, he said that if something had gone wrong, media would have become severely critical of that initiative.
The civil society too shared its views on how media can play a constructive role in making their efforts fruitful. A concern regarding sensationalisation of the news was also raised and the civil society representatives said that they look forward to objectivity from the journalists while reporting ‘incidents’. In this connection, Ms Kumud Singh from Sarokar, Bhopal, gave example of a few headlines which reinforced gender stereotypes. For instance headlines like ‘Women patwari caught taking bribe’ and ‘Mother caught throwing away her child’ send out negative messages and further victimise women.
However, the civil society acknowledged that the media has, over the years, gone beyond reporting on gender issues to running independent campaigns around gender-related issues which has helped civil society in building the momentum.
The need to have regular dialogues between the civil society and journalists was also suggested during the consultation. This would help in building mutual trust and would also inform the journalists about the current debates around the issue and simultaneously give them exposure to interventions by NGOs.
It was also suggested by the civil society groups as well as the journalists that gender studies should become a part of the curriculum in journalism and mass communication colleges. This would make the future journalists more sensitive towards the issue from the very beginning of their career.
Sensitive officials in the administration and responsible reporting, along with the support of civil society, were highlighted as the prerequisites of a successful partnership among various stakeholders.
The consultations ended with an emphasis on the need of working with editors of various media groups to institutionalise this process. Encouraging the journalists to do positive stories and building their capacities by introducing them to interventions by civil society will further intensify the collaborative efforts.
– Team Girls Count
Sensitive officials in the administration and responsible reporting, along with the support of civil society, were highlighted as the prerequisites of a successful partnership
Girls Count is an independent national level coalition of more than 400 civil society organizations and individuals across India, working to address factors that lead to declining child sex ratio. Members are united in their commitment towards creating a more gender equal and gender just society by challenging patriarchy and stopping gender-biased sex selection. At present, the coalition secretariat is supported technically and financially by UNFPA and NFI, while it continues to raise resources for its various campaigns and activities.
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