The recent graduation ceremony of 11 participants who completed the 'Gender and Media Literacy 2007’ course organised by Gender Links highlighted the need for programmes that develop the culture of critical media consumption among South Africans.
Gender Links’ Executive Director Colleen Lowe-Morna, noted that the course seeks to promote dialogue and debate on topical issues pertaining to gender in the media.
During the graduation ceremony, Theresa van der Merwe, a Councillor for the City of Johannesburg, highlighted the importance of the course in the context of Women’s Month.
Despite numerous efforts to the change the status quo, Van der Merwe contends that women continue to be portrayed as victims of violence and as sex objects by mainstream media. In the same vein, she argued that women and their issues continue to be marginalised by the media.
Van der Merwe asserted that this course will help the participants to challenge gender imbalances and stereotypes created by the media. She urged them to, “Use these skills as a lamp to shine your communities”.
According to Lowe-Morna, the course is ideal for communication professionals with interest in exploring gender issues and members of the public who want to become media literate.
Ethel Manyaka an independent media consultant and writer contends that, “The course changed my understanding of gender and the media.”
Lowe-Morna maintains that, “Upon completion, participants understand the media and become active media consumers.”
Nonhlanhla Sibanda, one of the graduates, is of the view that the media should be used as a tool to enhance transformation. Sibanda, who works for People Opposing Women Abuse (POWA), says lack of knowledge of gender legislations contributes to what she calls “systematic gender inequalities” in the country.
Van der Merwe further challenged some of the graduates from various government departments to use the skills they have acquired to inform policies aimed at tackling gender imbalances within the government. She argued that it was shocking that while women are in majority in South Africa, they only constitute 26% of the news.