What is the situation of Media and Gender in Iraq and Yemen today

Updated: Sep 16

After the change of regime in Iraq in 2003 a multitude of parties and their medias emerged and tended to undermine civil society movements and gender equality. In Yemen today, the repression exerted by the Houthis regime reduces the space women have to move and participate actively in society.

During the online Makanati Seminar in September 2020, over 150 participants, mostly women from all over Iraq and Yemen (from the north as well as the south and reflecting the diversity of all components of the Iraqi and Yemeni population) spoke about their lives, shared their concerns and exchange knowledge about the place of women in media. Makanati is a project implemented by AHJ (Humanitarian Aid and Journalism) which is an international association founded in France in 2017 and registered in Iraqi Kurdistan in 2019 which works in favour of Journalism for Human Rights (#Journalismforhumanrights), and in particular the rights of women and children.

The Makanati project is currently being implemented in Iraq and Yemen within a favorable context provided by the French Government who prioritizes the promotion of equality between women and men in the world (and particularly that of the fight against violence against women). Thie Makanati project is funded by the French Ministry for Europe and Foreign Affairs, and CFI, the French Media Development Agency, a subsidiary of France Médias Monde. Representatives of the Iraqi Government and the Kurdish Regional Authority are associated with this project as part of their commitments to improve the place of women in the media.

During the Makanati Seminar, Maya Shujaa Al Deen, a researcher at the Sana’a Center for Strategic Studies, explained that since the year 2000, the roles of media and civil society are increasingly important in Yemen. More and more women are studying at university and need to access jobs in many areas including the media. These tendencies have been opposed by religious considerations emanating more from the Golf countries that the Yemenite society itself and in particular in areas outside of city centres. Wedad Al Badwi, who has recently founded the Network of Yemeni women journalists explained that information in times of war neglects women and children’s rights. Information broadcasted by the media needs to address all aspects of society, whereas in times of war, propaganda becomes the norm and is meant to divide the population instead of uniting it. In times of conflict it is difficult to be close to the ground to relate to the subjects that matter most to people and this reduces the quality of media information.

Hibba Al-Majid, a journalist and TV presenter from Karbala in Iraq, explained that women had difficulties in their working relations with men and that they couldn’t feel at ease in a professional environment. Sinaa Khaled, Journalist at Yemen Times mentioned that much of the work done by journalists happens during the night in order to release the news the following morning and it is not accepted for women to work at night. Such stigmatisation leads to a lack of women’s voices on key issues in society such as justice, health, education, economy, social welfare, culture, technology.

Dr. Ibtisam Esmael Qadir, Dean of the Social Sciences college at Sulaimaniyah University underlined that society needs to offer services to the family such as day care centres for infants, or maternity leave, so that women can take on job opportunities.

Khanim Raheem Latif, Gender Advisor of the President of Iraq spoke strongly about the media’s role to transmit messages that serve progress and change in society. Alternative media has grown in the free environment of internet where some women journalists have been able to give voice to their concerns for equality, feminism and freedom. She underlined the ambitious and creative nature of Iraqi women in general.

Makanati is currently offering online training to women journalists and future journalists from Iraq and Yemen in order to raise their awareness of the importance of women's rights and gender equality. Training courses are building the professional skills female journalists and students in Iraq and Yemen need to find jobs and develop media information for the benefit of the female population of Iraq and Yemen. Makanati will also produce an inventory of the place of women in the media.

Angie Cotte, cultural activist.

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