BBC Highlights Media’s Role in Girls’ Rights

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SPARK-BBCreport

Credit: Andréanne Germain on Flickr, under Creative Commons

While the Northern Hemisphere is in a rage over the whiteness and maleness of the Oscar nominations, the Southern Hemisphere is dealing with a much different picture. In Pakistan, girls are still married off to settle family disputes. There are many conversations on the feminist and global agendas on how to solve these problem but in her October 2014 report, Caroline Sugg, head of Advisory and Policy team at BBC Media Action looks at media’s role in the development of girls’ rights south of the equator.

In “Making Waves: Media’s potential for girls in the Global South” Sugg focuses on the role media can play to aid the Global South catch up with Global North. From 41 interviews with experts and young women in 10 countries, Sugg’s report localizes broad concepts by providing wide range of evidence. Her premise rests on the fact that success for girls comes from the hope and the spark they can find in themselves when they know a better world is possible from outside, influential sources. Here’s what 22-year old Seher Ali from Oman said to Sugg in “Making Waves”: “As a young girl I grew up not being to identify- culturally, religiously, physically-with young girls that were on the screen.”

According to Sugg media is overlooked in its potential to change the lives of girls. She cites an Indian radio program called “Taru” which challenges cultural norms by featuring girls who talk to boys in public. She encourages programs that play on the interests of teen girls, like “Mean Girls” or the Nancy Drew series in the north, be used to influence the lives of those in the southern hemisphere.

“Making Waves” also looks at participatory initiatives, such as Plan International’s Youth Empowerment through Technology, Arts and Media. The project involves young West Africans identification of its generation’s thoughts and needs. After creating media projects, young people were able to use their creations to deliver the message to decision-makers. According to Sugg projects like these can encourage girls to get more involved in their communities.

The biggest hurdle international youth development experts will have to jump is breaking through societies opposed and resistant to educating females. Sugg suggests that parent-aimed mass media might be the most effective way to reach the adults who are in charge of their children’s media access. In Colombia, media, national and local governments, parents and organizations came together to create Compromiso Nacional de Television de Calidad para la Infancia (National Commitment for Quality TV for Children). Involvement of different groups helped increase the trust between media outputs and parents. The initiative enabled parents to express their concerns and have a say in the development of media guidelines. The goal, to Sugg, is that projects like this will lead to more tolerance towards education of females.

In Pakistani, the organization Bedari provides evidence that after increasing media coverage on child marriage to settle family disputes, policy-makers banned such unions. The key, even when media is used, is understanding that these efforts may not have immediate results, but over long-periods of time it can make a huge difference.

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