During a panel discussion held at the ongoing national conference on women in governance, leadership, and politics in Thimphu, a concern was raised that the mainstream media in Bhutan is not gender-sensitive.
There are limitations in the way mainstream media cover gender issues but it is not a deliberate policy. Newsrooms in Bhutan face human resource shortages and limitations, and therefore may not always be able to accord the sensitivity an issue such as gender deserves on a consistent basis.
But we do try. When journalists come across a story of a girl or woman who is attempting to succeed or might have achieved success in a traditionally male-dominated domain, we do attempt to provide the best possible coverage as a means to encourage other girls and women with examples.
It was an encouraging moment, undoubtedly for all media personnel present at the conference, when a woman who had stood as a candidate during the recent local government election thanked the media during the panel discussion for its coverage. While she did not win the post, she said that the media coverage had helped in getting her husband to encourage and support her.
But there were also examples of gender-insensitive reporting provided, for instance, the headline used for a Kuensel editorial on the government dropping its pledge to introduce a women’s quota that said: “Good riddance to the quota”.
While this newspaper stands by its stance that elected posts should be held by people based on their capabilities and qualities, and that awareness and education is the way forward towards achieving gender parity, we do acknowledge that we need more awareness on how we can report and write more gender sensitively. This goes for both men and women journalists.
Such panel discussions provide such opportunities to further raise the media’s awareness that such issues exist and need to be addressed. There is a need for more such meetings and it would be recommended that media houses meet among themselves, with other agencies, and with the public from time to time to further discuss the issue.
There is a need to reexamine the content of our news when it comes to gender reporting, not just for women but men as well. We need to constantly question ourselves if we are reinforcing stereotypes or getting the wrong ideas across.
It was also pointed out that there is a high attrition rate when it comes to women journalists. However, there is also a high attrition rate for men journalists and therefore the reasons for women leaving the profession may not entirely be gender based.
But to reduce the chances of women leaving journalism, and to encourage more representation, there is a need to have better support systems in place. For instance, newsrooms could be more flexible when it comes to timing with women journalists especially if they are mothers. Offices could also consider providing day care rooms so that journalists could bring their children to office.