Talking about gender equality and challenging stereotypes can be quite difficult, yet it is necessary to address the different forms of discrimination that women and girls face on a daily basis, and the media plays a critical role in informing people and promoting discussion.

The Pacific Community (SPC), in collaboration with FemLINK PACIFIC and the Government of Australia, arranged a five-day workshop for Pacific Island government departments responsible for promoting gender equality, and government media liaison officers.

Over 35 participants from 14 Pacific Island countries and territories are meeting this week at SPC’s Noumea headquarters, to discuss ways of promoting gender equality, using the media in its various forms.

The workshop encompasses SPC’s and the Government of Australia’s joint vision of working together to achieve improved development outcomes and sustainable improvements in the quality of life of all Pacific islanders.

In his opening remarks, the Pacific Community’s Deputy Director-General, Cameron Diver, stated that the result of many years of gender discrimination and stereotypical, exploitive images of women is possibly one of the key reasons for entrenched negative attitudes to women.

‘One only needs to look at the deeply entrenched culture of victim blaming in cases of violence against women and sexual assault,’ Mr Diver said.

‘There is evidence that exposure to sexual violence through the media is linked to greater tolerance and even approval of violence. Television shows, music videos and video games are such examples of the media portraying sexual violence, which can lead to acceptance of sexual violence as part of normal relationships and natural parts of love and intimacy,’ Mr Diver added.

Studies have revealed that domestic violence has reached alarming rates, affecting one-quarter of women in Palau, and approximately two-thirds of women in Fiji and Kiribati.

The gender gap in employment rates, as well as the fact that women’s political representation in the Pacific Islands region is the lowest of any global region, are also important concerns for gender equality.

‘The role of the media is to report on the evolution and current priorities of our societies. It is therefore key that women’s perspectives be rightfully and fairly included,’ said the Executive Director of the community-based media organisation, FemLINK PACIFIC, and workshop facilitator, Sharon Bhagwan Rolls.

The workshop includes a series of interactive sessions about developing effective messages by using language that is accessible to a large public, and about how to interact with the media in different contexts.

‘Gender equality can be both an abstract and an uneasy subject for many people in the Pacific. When you work towards equality, you challenge power relations and promote change and that alone can trigger resistance,’ explained SPC’s Deputy Director of the Social Development Division, Leituala Kuiniselani Toelupe Tago-Elisara.

‘Communicating the idea that when equality progresses everyone in society benefits is very important, and will help to get all segments of society rallying behind the pursuit of gender equality,’ she added.

The workshop concludes on Friday, 20 November.

Media contacts:  Brigitte Leduc, SPC, brigittel@spc.int
Sharon Bhagwan Rolls, FemLINK PACIFIC, Sharon@femlinkpacific.org.fj