Making change: Over 150 people learned how to promote gender equality in communications and journalism

During three days, journalists Gunnel Bergström and Maria Dahmen and photojournalist Åsa Sjöström have been on mission in Republic of Moldova, where they shared Sweden's experience in promoting gender equality in journalism, communications and photography. The mission, entitled "Making the change": Sweden's experience in promoting gender equality in media, communications and photography, was made up of workshops and public lectures with over 150 journalists, communications officers from state institutions from Moldova, but also students studying journalism, communication sciences and photographic art.

On the first day of the mission, Sweden's journalists and 30 Moldovan journalists approached topics such as portraying women in the media and photography, phenomenon of sexism in journalism and photojournalism, as well as journalism from gender perspective. This, taking into account, that the conclusions of the Media self-asssesment programme in ensuring gender equality, carried out between June 2015 and September 2016, with the support of the UN Program "Women in Politics", where 30 media institutions participated, showed that in approximately half of the articles published, the protagonists are men, and the share of women is 2.5 times smaller.

Asya Varbanova, Acting Head of UN Women Moldova, stressed that around half of the news in the world is promoting stereotypes towards women, so it is important to draw attention to the way how journalists report about women and men. "Both in journalism and in communications, the language we use and the messages we send are vital, because they affect the way we think. And you, in your daily work as editors, journalists and photographers, play a crucial role in changing gender stereotypes and promoting gender equality," said Asya Varbanova.

H.E. Signe Burgstaller, Ambassador of Sweden to Moldova, stated that this workshop is about Making Change, specifically when it comes to gender equality and media, and how women are portrayed in media. “Sweden strongly supports the national efforts in combating the persisting gender stereotypes in the society and the commitment by Moldovan mass media to promote gender equality and to adequately reflect the image of women in public and political life,” the ambassador pointed out.

Ilie Bujor, editor-in-chief of the local newspaper, considers that it is appropriate and even necessary to promote and monitor the issue of gender equality in the media, especially how women are presented in areas where they are not visible, as politics. "Women can and must have a better-defined role in our society, and this goal can be achieved with our participation, of the media," added the journalist.

On the second day of the mission, journalists from Sweden held public lessons at the Faculty of Journalism and Communication Sciences from the State University of Moldova (USM), the School of Advanced Studies in Journalism and the Academy of Music, Theater and Fine Arts from Chisinau. The topics discussed were also the portrayal of women in the media and photography, the phenomenon of sexism in journalism and photojournalism, but also the experience of journalists in promoting gender equality in the press and photography.

Based on concrete examples discussed in the public lesson, students noted that while there is still much work to be done in the field of gender equality, today it can be felt a change in mentality and society. Ștefan Tomuz, student at the university: "Women can and should have careers in areas that previously were considered only for men. And vice versa. In my opinion, no rigid delimitations are needed nowadays. Now, with changes in society and mentality, I think women feel more free to choose the profession they want, and men, for example, have the right to take paternity leave."

On the last day, the experts had a workshop with communication officers, where they analyzed the press releases through gender equality lenses and sought solutions to improve the representation of both genres in texts and images.

Journalist Maria Dahmén has recommended to the communications officers to draw up a list of women experts in their field of responsibility and avoid quoting the same male experts each time. "We must give voice and visibility to women through quotes and photos, because we rarely see women quoted as experts. We observe women in social issues, but we must also present women in male dominated areas. Avoid stereotypes. Highlight the areas in which women appear as experts, directors, managers. This is a way to change our way of thinking," the journalist said.

The international mission was conducted by Association of Independent Press (API), in partnership with UN Programme “Women in Politics”. The Programme is implemented by the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN Women) and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), in partnership with East Europe Foundation and Center "Partnership for Development", with financial support of the Government of Sweden.