Where are the Women Mentors in the Media?

16 Nov

As a young professional working in the field of ‘Women, Peace and Security,’ I continue to be surprised by the lack of mentors available to women and young girls and, in particular, the lack of media attention- at least among popular media outlets—focused on educating women and young girls on these issues in order to inspire a generation of active participants.

It has become obvious to me just how narrowly women are portrayed in popular media, from music videos to periodicals. These sources tend to focus their attention on body image issues or trying to instill an image of self-confidence, which in turn only works to make women more self-conscious about their appearance. While body image and self-confidence are important issues, there is not much attention on the barriers that affect women’s participation- where is the attention on the barriers that rural women face in accessing resources, education, employment? Where is the support for those women trying to have a voice at decision making tables? Where is the education for those trying to overcome the community stigma of having fought in combat? Where are the mechanisms for overcoming the cultural stigma that prohibits women’s participation in patriarchal societies? Thinking practically, we all face the same challenges. For example, domestic violence is an issue that affects all women, regardless of their ethnic or social backgrounds. The circulation of weapons and small arms that often leads to women as victims of gun violence is an issue of worldwide concern, yet you rarely see this covered in popular media. Accessibility issues, along with institutionalizing women’s participation at decision making tables, and the stories of how these women overcome such difficult circumstances, are not typically covered by the more popular periodicals.

Here at GAPW, we work to promote women’s full participation in social and political life and promote women as agents of change. Our work is solidified by the emphasis and promotion of women mentors who encourage and support women in their struggles of participation. But, this hard work becomes even harder without the support of the media. Media outlets are a viable source for showcasing mentors and inspiring adoption of a norm of ‘women as agents of change’ rather than strictly victims. The need for highlighting women mentors is necessary to educate future generations that to be a confident woman is not just about body image, but also about how to change and overcome the barriers that get in the way of full participation.

-Melina Lito

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