By ICSSI Secretariat – November 2017
On 23 October in Baghdad, IWJF held a seminar on the role of the media in supporting women candidates and mobilizing public opinion for their success in elections. With elections coming up soon, alerting voters to those women who are running for office is urgent. The seminar was attended by a group of activists, academics and workers in the media, and highlighted the media’s influence on the formation of public opinion as it relates to the election of women.
The seminar opened with a paper by the head of the Iraqi Center for Media Development, Dr. Adnan Al-Sarraj, in which he discussed three key themes relating to the support of women candidates in national and regional elections. The first theme dealt with the role of the media generally in the context of elections, the second discussed the political and cultural role of women and its impact on empowering the candidate, and the third theme explored the difficulties faced by women who want to run for office, which he broke down into social, tribal and/or partisan factors.
The seminar included several presentations which explored how to implement various recommendations for developing an effective role for the media, most prominent of which was that from the President of IWJF Ms. Nibras Al-Mamouri. She provided a quick review of Shahrazad project, and then went on to discuss a study from the IWJF focusing on the image of women in the media. The data produced by the study indicated the need to take seriously the role of women voters, and suggested that the media might be an extremely effective tool in the support of women candidates. Together with Al-Sarraj’s presentation, the outcome of the study helped participants to formulate a new media strategy.
An open discussion followed the presentations and participants in the seminar identified specific weaknesses and strengths of the media. The following recommendations were agreed upon:
1. Invest in organizations whose work is related to the press or media, and encourage them to develop projects exploring the ways in which the media might support women candidates; strategize about how best to attract donors for women candidates; ensure that new policies and campaigns are written and supervised by women, who, after all, are the experts in this context.
2. Develop a media strategy which takes gender into account in cooperation with the Iraqi Media Network (as that body which is responsible for ensuring that all media is in accordance with the law), and encourage collaboration with civil society. Strategies include the following:
i. Invest in the training and development institute in the Network to train female candidates in preparation for when they appear in the media.
ii. Produce specialized programs for women candidates.
iii. Support organizations which might lack direct ties with the Network but which nevertheless must undertake the task of producing content and training potential candidates — in short, ensure that organizations outside the Network continue to cooperate and collaborate with the media.
3. Create a media campaign capable of reaching individual devices as well as screens in public places before elections with positive slogans that encourage the election of women; identify publicly the negative effects of past elections that failed to put women in office.
4. Hold a workshop sponsored by IWJF including private media organizations to discuss effective mechanisms of collaboration with civil society organizations to change the stereotypes about women in the media, and to develop strategies that can support women in elections, both as candidates and voters.
This seminar is an activity within the Shahrazad Project, implemented by the Iraqi Women Journalists Forum and in cooperation with Un Ponte Per … and the Iraqi Civil Society Solidarity Initiative.