While most of our work here at The Gender Report is focused on identifying the problems and gaps in the representation of women in news coverage, we feel it necessary to take time to recognize those who are working toward solutions. That’s why, starting with this post during Women’s History Month and the week of International Women’s Day, we’re going to try to spend time highlighting an organization that is making strides in this area.
With each feature, we’ll be in correspondence with a member of that organization to have her, or him, answer five questions about its work.
First up, is…
The Gender Report spoke with Aime Williams, executive director and co-founder of Global Girl Media, via e-mail about the organization’s exciting work to empower teen girls through media training. Here’s what she had to share:
1. For those who are unfamiliar with your work, give us your elevator pitch — What is Global Girl Media?
Global Girl Media (GGM) develops the voice and self-expression of teenage girls in under-served and marginalized communities by training them to become citizen journalists, harnessing the power of new digital media to inspire self-esteem, community activism and social change. By linking young women internationally with seasoned reporters, educators and filmmakers, GGM empowers girls to make media that matters, improves media literacy, and encourages the promotion of healthier media messages about girls and women.
2. What do you consider to be the biggest issue when it comes to the representation of women in journalism and its creation?
Accuracy and complexity. We feel in particular the voices of young women from marginalized or otherwise under-served population are either absent or only heard from in times of war, disaster or crisis, oftentimes victimizing the subject.
Ethan Zuckerman, co-founder of the international blog Global Voices, speaking at a recent TED talk stated, “Sure we are becoming more global, our problems are global in scale, economics, environment, but our media is getting less global by the day…” International news as a percentage of an American television broadcast was 35 percent in the 1970s and it is less than 12 percent today. Access to and authorship of media matters because it underpins how societies respond to the problems they face. In the words of the BBC World Trust, “This makes media not only relevant to the most urgent problems of poverty and marginalization — it makes it critical to solutions designed to address them.”
GGM believes that ensuring access to media information and building capacity for authorship of this information is particularly crucial where media resources are scarce, and therefore oftentimes skewed to a particular dominant ideology or bias.
3. How is your organization a part of the solution?
Our model is unique in that it pairs U.S. communities with international cities, creating a peer-to-peer international network of girls that can break down stereotypes by directly connecting and impacting each other through the internet. Training young women in new media journalism has the unique capability of augmenting all the other aspects of GGM’s activities, cross-cutting between issues of gender equity and self-esteem, cross-cultural communication and media literacy, reproductive rights and economic gains, etc.
What we are attempting to build with our media training program and distribution network is essentially a new model for development: one that sees authentic self-representation as a vibrant partner to economic growth, providing a viable structure for young women to take part in new media for human growth and development.
4. What project are you currently working on that you’re most excited about? Share a little bit about it.
Just as we strategically paired the cities of Los Angeles and Soweto, South Africa, for our pilot program, we have chosen Detroit as the sister city to our two initial international training sites — Sulaimaniyah, Kurdistan (Iraq) and Beirut, Lebanon, for our program expansion in 2011-2012. Our reasoning derives from a perceived lack of media being produced from a female perspective in these regions, in particular, young Arab and Muslim women are either entirely absent from mainstream media or grossly misrepresented and stereotyped.
Given the mass freedom movements in this area the world, now is certainly the time for Global Girl Media to be there! In the United States, there is a global curiosity about Middle Eastern and Arab women. People want to know who they are, what they have to say. Michigan has a large Arab Muslim Population and is also undergoing a period of great change.
In Detroit, the national economic crisis could not be more acute, where an historic industry is being rebuilt and the very first Arab American Museum has recently opened. GGM hopes to work within all three communities to help draw parallels, encourage critical dialogue and provide a broader experience for each Global Girl it trains.
5. What needs does your organization have? How can people get involved?
We are always looking to build our capacity and expand our program. We have an ongoing need for office volunteers, as well as program partners for future development. If there are organizations that want to bring our program to their community, we welcome them to reach out to us. We are always looking for co-sponsors, corporate and foundation support.
Are you a member of an organization that looks to address issues of gender representation in the news? Contact us about being next month’s “In the Spotlight” organization by e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org.