By Fatoumatta K. Jallow

Center for Media and Development Research in Africa (CENMEDRA) held Three days Training Workshop for Journalists on prejudiced communication: Stereotypes and Biases in Women’s Depiction in the Mass Media on the 23 to 25 February, 2016.

Mr. George Christensen, Training Coordinator and Chair of the Board of Trustees of CENMEDRA, said this intensive three days training course is a survey on women’s depiction by Gambian mass media whose findings will be disseminated shortly via the CENMEDRA website. He said it is therefore the interplay between theory and practice, with greater emphasis laid on pinpointing and avoiding stereotypical portrayals of women in the media with their attendant adverse effects, including entrenched discriminatory practices and heightened gender – based violence in society.

“Such a proactive approach, he said, is in line with section J of the Beijing platform for action adopted at the fourth UN World Conference on Women in 1995 that underlines the importance of the media to the advancement of women,” he said.

Mr. Christensen said Non- governmental organisations and media professional associations are encouraged to establish media watch groups that can monitor the media and consult with the media to ensure that women’s needs and concerns are properly reflected’ in mediated communications since mediated communications are known to bring about cognitive as well as attitudinal shifts in society. “A balanced and unbiased media representation of women is imperative for the emancipation of women from the seemingly intractable bondage of patriarchy, which has been the nemesis of women from time immemorial,” said Mr. Christensen. He said consequently the course explores the conceptual of prejudices, stereotypes and biases as social and psychological phenomena in relation to media practices. It also examines the legal dimensions of gender equality as a counterweight to the underlying exclusionary discourses, mechanisms or propensities of patriarchy that have recursively repressed women across time and place without compunction.

CENMEDRA Board of Trustees Chair noted that at the end of the course, all the 20 participants drawn from the media are expected to realise within themselves a change in skill, knowledge or awareness that contribute to gender equality. As proof of this expected transformation, they will be required to write a 150 word essay stating how the course has awakened them or contributed to their increased awareness of media practices and approaches that foster gender equality and women’s empowerment. They are also expected to apply their newly acquired skills set, knowledge or awareness to set the agenda for women’s empowerment by framing and priming women’s issues, needs and concerns in a more positive light without value judgment, he concludes.

Jean Phillipe Bourgeois, CFLI Coordinator, said for over three decades Canada has funded modest projects proposals and implemented by local NGOs and other grassroots organizations such as village council, cooperatives and women’s groups through the CFLI. This, he said, has enabled Canada to respond to local needs by working at the community level. “The CFLI has also served to strengthen Canada’s relationship with civil society and local communities and to build networks of contacts in countries around the world,” said Mr. Phillipe.
Mr. Aloa Alota, through the Centre Media and Development Research in Africa (CENMEDRA), submitted a very specific project proposal and we had no choice but to fund it. “Being myself a proud parent of two girls women’s depiction in the Mass media is the subject my wife and I often talk about this in the world and don’t think that it is a thing of the past, in other countries Canada has made strides but there is still much work to be done; during the last 4 years of living, working and traveling  in West Africa I have been privileged to meet inspiring women of all walks of life, they all have their dreams in common good education, a career or simply to be good mothers but mostly wanted to be integrated citizens. Under their own terms is what I push my daughters to attain and wish it for all women of this world, when a woman is not able to reach her full potential all of society suffers. If that same society doesn’t treat them right by ending negative stereotypes, it is a root problem that has to be dug out of the ground exposed to the light, all of you here have immense power, you are the voice every one listens to, you are words every one reads, you have the power to shape people’s thought, you have the power to change in all the fingers you use to type and all the words that come out of your mouth. This is a great responsibility that you bear; old habits die hard,” said Alota.

The presenters and topics that were dealt with were:

Topic 1: Understanding Prejudices, Stereotypes and Biases: A Psychological Perspective. Lecturer: Dr. Lamin Sidibeh, Professor of Psychology, American International University, Banjul;
Topic: 2. Avoiding Stereotypes and Biases in Reporting about Women: Approaches and Techniques; Lecturer: Ms. Amie Sillah, Gender Activist and Columnist Foroyaa Newspaper;
Topic: 3.Communicating Women’ Rights: Issues, Legislation and Challenges; Lecturer: Her Worship Sharon Ofori –Atta, First Class Magistrate, Gambia Judiciary.