Problem: What problem is this project trying to address?
Media in the Arab world is associated with and controlled by men. Consequently, the male perception of women’s role and position is the narrative that is aired, which in turn reinforces traditional views of women. The male-controlled media does not create an inclusive platform to address many existing social problems affecting women, but instead contributes to maintaining the status quo. Furthermore, the current state of the media industry directly limits women’s economic role since the industry does not give women space to compete for jobs, which are tacitly reserved for men. Women are given opportunity to perform only few limited roles, such as anchors and presenters, reinforcing traditional stereotypes of women.
Media in the Arab region neither touches upon nor encourages discussion about many gender sensitive taboo subjects, such as domestic violence and female genital mutilation, among others. This has a myriad of consequences. When it comes to sexual and physical violence against women, a lack of awareness and education on the matter means that social phenomena, such as rape, are not properly understood. Consequently, a twisted reality has become the popularly accepted norm whereby women bear responsibility, and thereby become both the victims and perpetrators of crimes done against them.
The media commonly portrays women as victims and do not present, directly or indirectly, women as equal to men. The general image of women in media is often passive-negative, discouraging women from taking action or responsibility and adversely affecting the way they are viewed by the community. Arab women in the media are commonly presented as sufferers of violence, abuse and oppression, undermining their major contributions and successes. While there are many inspiring examples of Arab women’s important contributions to their families, communities and the wider society, the general trend when portraying Arab women is submissive; there is little attention given to women community leaders, politicians, professionals, scientists and experts. Critics confronted the focus on women’s bodies prevalent in the media and called for new images of women as leaders, specialists, organizers, mothers, wives and active participants in society. Consequently both genders are unaware of women’s rights and the true nature of women’s potentials, having very few role models of successful women.
In spite of many talk-shows and the interactive media, there has never been a constructive, accessible and affordable form of media that involved women and addressed women’s issues. The other shows serve mostly entertainment purposes, presenting women’s issues in a superfluous way, leading the viewers to ignore the importance of structural challenges facing women such as gender inequality.
Solution: What is the proposed solution? Please be specific!
Maysoon is establishing the first and only women run radio station and website in the Levant region in order to influence society’s negative perception of women and their exclusion from important jobs within the media industry.
Maysoon is using affordable and accessible communication medium for generating discussion about taboo subjects pertaining to women such as honour killing, early marriage, female genital mutilation and women’s exclusion from public life.
In contrast to predominantly male controlled radio stations and websites, Maysoon’s strategy also includes training women on non traditional jobs to become producers, anchors, technicians, managers and community based broadcasters. In addition to creating job opportunities, the programs which are designed and produced by and for women, promote concepts such as gender equality, gender rights, social and economic inclusion of women, diversity etc. Finally, and unlike most programs, Maysoon is promoting women as carriers of peace within Arab society.
Maysoon’s 96’NISAA FM is not just a station to promote women’s issues, it’s a statement that addresses structural problems causing women’s exclusion by breaking through the old male-controlled communication mediums and creating unconventional, but non-confrontational space for women to interact within society. By engaging men as equal partners Maysoon is also changing how other members of society perceive the position and status of women in the Arab region.