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Women in South African Media

“Wathinta Abafazi, Wathinta iMbokodo”

We all know that every action has a reaction. On the 9th of August 1995, one of the largest demonstrations was staged where 20 000 women of all races marched to Pretoria’s Union Buildings to present a petition against the carrying of passes by women to the prime minister. These women sent a public message that they would not be intimidated and silenced by the unjust laws. It has been 24 years since this act of selflessness and courage and this has made me feel the need to highlight challenges faced by women within the media industry.

Women in media face gender inequalities, safety issues, and under-representation.  You could watch a movie, switch on the TV, tune in to the radio, turn the pages of a magazine, or surf online. Regardless of your choice of media, you’d have a good chance of encountering stereotypes that perpetuate gender discrimination. Despite these challenges, women continue to push and flourish against all odds.

Research spanning more than 100 countries found that 46% of news stories, in print and on radio and television, uphold gender stereotypes. Only 6% highlight gender equality. Behind the scenes, men still occupy 73% of top media management positions, according to another global study spanning 522 news media organizations. While women represent half of the world’s population, less than one third of all speaking characters in film are female.

This research should wake us up as a society, as we need to encourage and support women to enter the media discourse and most importantly, to do away with the content of gender stereotypes that we see and hear from media outlets.