Publication Date
July 1, 2017

"This paper outlines BBC Media Action’s approach to Gender Equality and our strategy for achieving impact in this area. This paper reviews and builds on learnings and evidence from initiatives that have sought to advance gender equality through the media as well as more broadly and sets a course for how we will strengthen our impact in this area over the next three years."

This BBC Media Action approach paper on gender is one of four in a series. It opens with Sustainable Development Goal 5 - 'achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls' – and then cites the under-representation of women at all levels of decision-making and violence against women as two factors indicating the need for gender equality requiring "systematically tackling its underlying causes - transforming legal and policy frameworks and the social structures that perpetuate inequality and limit women." As stated here, media "...has the power to challenge inequalities but also the power to deepen them. The media affects gender equality in a number of ways…" including shaping culture and influencing power dynamics. This paper complements BBC Median Action's Gender Action Plan, available in the appendix of the document beginning on page 10.

The organisation's strategy for the three years 2017 -2020, is charted on pages 3 and 4:

  1. Increasing the number of projects working directly to advance gender equality and empower women. Specifically, delivering high impact projects focussing on the economic and political empowerment of women and girls, supporting women to access their health and education rights and reducing violence against women and girls.
  2. Increasing the emphasis on gender across all projects, seeking to ensure women's views and needs shape programming equally and more opportunities to challenge norms and stereotypes are found.
  3. Training and supporting more women to work in the media, particularly in leadership roles. Capacity building work will also seek to address gender relations within media houses we partner with and the amount of gender sensitive and transformative content produced by partners.
  4. Improving our ability to use evidence based theories of change and design thinking to deliver smarter and more impactful programming.
  5. Developing our evidence base around how media and communication impacts on gender equality and empowerment of women and girls and what works to achieve transformative change.

Their approach supports communication that: involves men and boys as agents of change for women; is strategic and targeted on issues; sparks and facilitates discussions in homes and communities; and includes multiple and reinforcing communication components. They work with media organisations and practitioners by co-producing content tackling gender inequality; supporting women to play leadership roles in media and communication; and partnering with local media to accelerate change.

BBC Media Action activities in support of their “politically aware, learning-by-doing approach" include:

  1. Conducting research – understanding audiences' needs and media and communication habits, including the differences between men and women;
  2. Strengthening media organisations and regulators – strengthening "capacity of local and national media organisations to address inequities in the representation of gender in the media, engage female audiences and develop gender transformative programming" as well as providing direct support to enhance the capacity of women to play leadership roles within the media and communication sector;
  3. Making media content – using radio, television, online, and mobile platforms with a wide variety of formats, including debates, magazines, call-ins or drama to develop gender transformative programming; and
  4. Supporting face to face and networked communication - sustained discussion as key to impact, using online, mobile, and face-to-face communication (such as discussion groups, road shows or community events).

Projects seek to drive change through:

  • empowering men and women including encouraging women's leadership and men's championing equality.
  • creating space including in public debate and face-to-face communication.
  • influencing power including supporting women to ask questions and demand answers of those in power, as well as participating in agenda setting and holding people accountable.

Social norms can be influenced by: generating debate on existing norms; building new norms such as family responsibility sharing; increasing visibility of norm shifts like reduction of FGM; debunking perceived norms; encouraging abandonment of harmful norms; and depicting role model deviations from the norm. To develop a project that addresses norms, the paper offers the following:

  •  "Identify which attitudes, norms or beliefs reinforce a particular behaviour in order to determine what media can do to challenge them.
  • Focus on tackling highly influential norms that drive multiple behaviours. Breaking one norm can make it easier to shift associated norms.
  • Short vs long term change. Some attitudes, norms and behaviours may change in the shorter term, others require longer-term approaches. For example it is unlikely that a short project can change the practice of early marriage. It might be easier to gain support for keeping girls in school for longer, contributing to new norms around later marriage.
  • Different approaches for different audiences: For example, social norms are less internalised and are easier to shift among adolescent groups. For adolescents it may be possible to take a more direct approach to challenging norms.
  • Identify the influencers whose opinions matter most.30 If girls have traditionally not gone to school because their families fear their reputation will be sullied, the project must also engage with family and community members as well as girls."

A final chart shows the flow from barriers to changing social norms (page 9), and appendices follow, including the Gender Action Plan, definitions, a chart of case studies, resources, and tips for creating gender transformative media projects.


BBC Media Action website, December 5 2017.