Gender and Media
A series of studies on gender and media conducted in 2007 by Oxfam and CSAGA, a Vietnamese NGO, revealed a significant amount of gender stereotyping in media reporting. For example, men were typically displayed as strong, decisive and better at economic matters, and often portrayed in leadership positions. Women, meanwhile, were presented as gentle, responsible for child care and housework, and were shown to work in low-income positions.
Changing attitudes and beliefs
In response to this, Oxfam and CSAGA designed a project to challenge gender stereotypes in the media in order to catalyse social change. The project aimed to change the media portrayal of men and women’s roles and rights, resulting in a change in people’s overall attitudes and beliefs.
Since 2008, Oxfam and CSAGA have supported policy makers and heads of media regulatory agencies to have clearer strategies and action plans in place to ensure balanced and accurate reporting on gender issues. Second, we have worked with leading media outlets and universities to increase the quantity and quality of media coverage that challenged gender stereotypes and promoted women and men as having equal rights. This has included training journalists on how to avoid gender stereotypes in their reporting. Thirdly, we have promoted public debates on gender equality issues, such as domestic violence, the preference for sons over daughters, and women’s leadership abilities, in a number of media outlets.
A new priority issue for policy makers
Our joint efforts to affect media portrayals have led to a number of successes. Challenging gender stereotypes in the media has now become a priority for policy makers, and Oxfam and CSAGA has been recognised as important partners in this area. For example, CSAGA was the only Vietnamese NGO invited by the Ministry of Labour, Invalids and Social Affairs to be a member of the advisory group that drafted the 2011 National Strategy on Gender Equality. Project partners also contributed to the drafting of the 2012 Advertisement Law, which prohibits the use of gender stereotypes in advertisements.
In addition, Oxfam supported the National Assembly Social Affairs Committee to evaluate the role of the media in challenging gender discrimination and to provide suggestions for improvement to relevant media agencies. With technical and financial support from Oxfam and UNESCO, and based on Oxfam research, the Ministry of Information and Communication developed guidelines on gender sensitive indicators for the media. The Women’s Union was also funded to develop a handbook on gender sensitive communication.
Supporting journalists and editors
Furthermore, Oxfam has achieved a number of results in engagement with journalists and editors. Initially, both groups were upset if their stories were included in the project’s monthly watchdog newsletter, which highlighted examples of media reporting that reinforced gender stereotypes and inequality. Gradually however, the newsletters were seen as a valuable resource. The watchdog newsletters were also mentioned as a model to be replicated by government agencies in the National Programme on Gender Equality.
Overall, more than 50 journalists used the project’s products as useful references and applied the knowledge and skills on gender sensitive communication they had learnt in their reporting. Many of them also encouraged their senior colleagues to pay more attention to gender equality issues and the need for gender sensitive reporting.
The project supported the setting up of gender working groups at both the Voice of Vietnam (VOV) radio station and the online newspaper Tin Tuc Online (TTOL), and these were very active in promoting gender sensitive reporting. The VOV programmes and TTOL stories reached a large number of people, with up to 65,000 people reading one of the TTOL articles on gender equality. In addition, a network of well-known journalists and bloggers, which was supported by the project, successfully promoted a series of public debates on the roles of women and men, which attracted discussion on social media channels.
Oxfam and CSAGA have also worked with universities to improve the understanding among lecturers and students about gender sensitive communication. As a result of collaboration with the Faculty of Journalism and Communication of the Hanoi University of Social Sciences and Humanities, the university has now decided to fully integrate gender-sensitive training into its curriculum.
Project: Challenging gender stereotypes in the Vietnamese media to catalyse social change
Time frame: 2008-2016, project in further development
Funding: Oxfam core funding
Center for Studies and Applied Sciences in Gender, Family, Women and Adolescents.