Download the #AWiM2022 conference report here AWiM 2022 Report

African Women in Media’s (AWiM) sixth conference (#AWiM2022), was a hybrid event that brought together academia, industry experts, civil society and policy actors. The objective was to share insights and best practices on the intersection of gender equality and media development in Africa. The conference, which took place on 8-9 December 2022 in Fez, Morocco, featured over 90 speakers, 16 panels and three workshops all engaging in various topics.

Cross section of attendees at AWiM2022 in Fes, Morocco

Themed “United in Action,”’ discussions were wide-ranging across three sub-themes: Gender Equality in and through Media; Collective Action and Representation; and Media Business and Global Challenges. ‘United in Action’ refers to the coming together of all stakeholders in gender equality, our shared experiences, and unity among media practitioners, academics, policy actors and civil society towards gender equality in the newsroom and in media content. Therefore, the AWiM2022 conference was guided by an ethos of shared best practices and collaborative action to impact positively the way media functions in relation to African women. What follows, then, is a collation of thematic recommendations from the
discussions, distilled into their most actionable form that each of us, as the collective media fraternity can apply in and within our structures and praxis.

As we list these recommendations, you will discover intersecting threads in each thematic area mentioned above. The issue of climate change, for instance, cannot be discussed without the nuances and understanding of land, owned predominantly by men, and its contributions to gender inequality. Each theme demands different levels of collective action as their primary actors are also different. The business of media similarly has a direct consequence on the financial empowerment of women in media and tackles how that might account for a reduction in gender inequality in the media.

These discussions are grounded by the development, implementation, adoption and evaluation of policies that codify actions and keep the decision makers and individuals accountable. In a powerful opening and keynote session, there was an accounting of progress made towards gender equity in the media in Africa. It was clear that gaps still exist in leadership and representation of women. Visual culture is still mostly objectifying and perpetuating negative stereotypes about women’s role in society. The call was to expand the role of media to not only report the news, but to challenge the reproduction and redistribution of such stereotypes. Aided by supportive legal and policy frameworks, the task ahead was not to simply implement, but also to adopt. Rarely can the challenges experienced in media organizations be overcome without policies, and the media has undoubtedly done well towards the development, implementation and adoption of organizational policies, particularly gender policies. The gaps that persist for women in media – to name a few, women’s underrepresentation in high editorial positions, sexual harassment in the workplace and lack of structures for redress, imbalanced recruitment practices, unfair compensation, lack of career progression – may be filled by attaining a good balance of internal and external mechanisms for change.

The panel on Policies and Regulations towards gender equality in the media, resoundingly called for an increase in the number of women sitting as board directors in media companies. Participants called for the changing practices in news making and messaging that will limit gender stereotyping and curb editorial impunity. Continuous training on how employees understand sexual harassment and, even more importantly, structures that resolve these issues within media organizations and finally, building overall inclusive systems in the workplace that meet the threshold of gender balance.

Close up of attendees at #AWiM2022

Another critical question that the AWiM22 conference aimed to answer was how the media is responding to the global challenges of our time: climate change, peace & security and food security. These discussions were by no means exhaustive but included, academic, civic, organizational and even personal perspectives spread out across panels that focused on; Media Entrepreneurship, Women in Politics, the Promises and Perils of Digital Technologies and Online & Offline Safety and Harassment of Women.

The ensuing presentations, questions and discussions revealed that women’s lived experiences amid increasing global challenges were dire. Each one highlighted how women bear the brunt of climate change, conflict and gender-based violence. Further, they each revealed that the media had a significant role in contextualizing narratives in the Global South by telling gendered perspectives of climate change, amplifying women’s roles and voices in regional peace, and extensively covering gender-based violence to bring to light the pervasiveness of these issues. To move to action, the panel agreed that media organisations should not only join the fight for climate justice but should mainstream gender-responsive policies that protect women as subjects and objects of the news.

Gender inequality, as has been extensively reported, is aided by many social factors, including a wide gap in income between men and women. The conference discussions would, therefore, not be complete without deconstructing and understanding the global challenge of media business entrepreneurship, including media financing. Practical actions that can meet this challenge, as offered by the panelists, include constant innovation within media organizations to meet the demands of a fast-paced, and constantly evolving digital landscape., Collective action through partnerships that can potentially increase revenue within media organizations, structures and frameworks that protect women from sexual harassment and other forms of discrimination and violence in the workplace were also called for. Similarly, continuous training of journalists to reskill and upskill their reporting and finally, policies that ensure women can take up leadership positions within the organizations.

Cross section of #AWiM2022 participants

One cannot speak about women in leadership without perspectives from the political landscape, which is usually male-dominated across the African continent and a good indicator in the development matrix. The panel on women in politics focused on how the media reports women throughout an election cycle. It drew from experiences of recent election coverage in South Africa, Kenya and Nigeria. Still, it found that these perspectives were ubiquitous in Africa. How can the media ensure balanced, fair and equal coverage of women candidates?

The speakers proposed the following key actions: enforcing in-country policies and protocols that demand equitability, e.g., the SADC Gender and Development Protocol, selection of sources and stories that are gender balanced and representative, media training on gender sensitivities, mentorship for women interested in political careers, the institutionalization of gender policies within political parties, countering cultural practices that are aimed at upholding patriarchy and finally, partnership with civil society organisations to teach women about their rights.

The panel on the promise and perils of digital technologies for women-led political activism went a step further to outline how digital technologies could be used to overcome barriers that women in political spaces faced. Although digital spaces are still dominated by men, and other challenges still exist, actions to democratize digital platforms would undoubtedly lead to strengthened female political participation, and an amplification of women’s voices. Similar sentiments were drawn from the panel on understanding digital media with the addition of inclusivity for people with disabilities on digital platforms. These include accommodations such as, interpreters, assistive devices, data protection and inclusive policies.

The issue of mental health and psychological wellbeing is increasing in discourse around the information age. Therefore, it was crucial during the conference to hear the media’s perspectives as communicators of information and as workers on the frontline. The panels on Representations and Communications of Mental Health in the Media and Harnessing media for health advocacy, promotion and behavior change communication spotlighted that communication around mental health and mental illness is still marred with stigma and negative stereotypes. Further, journalists themselves have no avenues to seek support for psychological first aid. It was encouraging that the speakers, in their different fields, were pursuing ways to resolve this through their research works. They rounded up this conversation by putting both media organisations and other agencies to task to act by; dispelling negative imagery of mental illness in visual culture, use their platforms to educate and inform, sensitization of leadership in and out of the organisation to acknowledge mental health as a priority, regulations on social media and gender representative content.

AWiM2022 Awards and Gala Night

The AWiM22 discussions culminated in a renewed commitment to collective action towards ending gender inequality in the media and society. As women in media and our allies, we realized that we have shared challenges, responsibilities, and opportunities. We learned from the Gender, Culture and Violence in Morocco, Women and Media Prejudice and Misogyny in Moroccan society panels that cultural practices can constrain progress and limit creativity. The resolutions were not different from those that had been echoed throughout the conference. These include balanced and representative content in visual culture that challenge stereotypes about women and change public perception, policies and structural solutions that protect women from any type of violence and reduce barriers to entry for women into typically male-dominated spaces.

This is not an exhaustive summary of the actionable actions that came through from panel discussions. The panels offered much more detail and analysis of the topics discussed. We invite you to dive deep into the report to engage and grapple with the ideas presented. The main goal of the AWiM22 conference was to create solutions that might guide media organizations, media practitioners, academics, civil society organizations and media partners and allies in their work towards equitability in and out of the media. We know that these actionable actions can serve as great agents for change when adapted and applied accordingly.

Visit our photo gallery for more highlights from the conference.

Download the #AWiM2022 conference report here AWiM 2022 Report