In the past decade, Latin American societies have experienced radical changes where women went from having a secondary to a leading role.
The image of a "normal" family as a pillar of society is becoming blurry. At least in Chile, during the past year, 73 percent of babies were born outside of a conventional family, with an absent father, or without the parents being married. In addition, in 40 percent of homes in Santiago, the Chilean capital, the heads of households are women who are alone.
With these data, Mónica González, a veteran Chilean journalist and Director of CIPER, opens the debate of the workshop Mujeres líderes en la sala de redacción (Leading women in the newsroom). She suggests that these figures could be reflecting a similar reality in any Latin American country, so in these times it is necessary to think on how to address gender issues and guarantee women more space in the media's agendas.
González asks to avoid speaking about women "just to speak". Focusing on looking exclusively at what activists or women movements do is not a solution either. The way in which things are told must be turned around: from femicides to the stories behind those terrible cases, to the figures that state that women today hold the family reins.
According to Gonzalez, the best alternative is to provide a face and a soul to those realities that not only affect women but also the whole society, as they lead to a weakening of democracies. There also has to be more talks about inequality and impunity. How can this be done from the communications media? These are some of her recommendations:
- Know the laws: to tell about violence, in any form, it
is first necessary to know how the State functions.
For this, she recommends to learn the regulations of all the laws,
from anti-corruption to those that sanction important crimes that
affect the daily life of citizens which, in the case of women, are
more severe: in most of the countries of Latin America, the laws
that punish femicide, for example, are dead letters. This is
something that has to be faced, reported, and
Ambiguous or "lyrical" arguments have to be understood. It is also necessary to get to the origin of the law, know who proposed it. Then, from a journalistic perspective, try to respond to some key questions: How to go about it so that men who commit these crimes finally pay for them? How to force the State to guarantee this? What can be done to have the State worry about designing public policies that really face these realities?
- Know where we stand: although prejudices
persist, Latin America has advanced with respect to many issues,
such as homophobia. Some nations already have a set of regulations
that favor the sanctioning of discrimination, and others still face
despicable levels of homophobia. Still, there is a significant
advance which is not seen with respect to women issues.
Gonzalez poses a question: Why are there no advances with respect to women who are alone, mostly from low social backgrounds, who face life with children, without a "male provider", no education, in situation of poverty, and exposed to being victims of violence?
- Put up a fight in the editorial department: if
in a meeting to establish the guidelines where most participants
are men, a female reporter or editor suggests the subject of a girl
who was raped by two boys, all in a homeless situation, and the
response is negative because it refers to "drug addicts" or
"homeless", "used to that kind of life", and on top of everything
they say it as a joke to soften the discussion, Gonzalez asks the
participants of the workshop: "what would you do?"
The response is clear for her: "never smile. Continue firmly with your idea of looking at the story behind: who are they, where were they born, how did they become homeless, how do they live like that. Ask them: Do you know what it means to survive in the streets? Do you know how many people live like that in the country? You will transform questions into solid arguments and reasons to research".
- Work in teams with men: González
suggests to avoid speaking about discrimination or violence
against women as isolated issues. The work of women journalists is
also next to men journalists in the newsroom and one of their
challenges is to have those who do not understand it finally do, to
see the agenda that cannot be seen and do the work as it should be
- Delve where nobody else does: when a survey is
published, many media stay in the numbers, without seeing what is
behind a figure and without making an x-ray of the
data. It is the "surplus material" of the surveys
that has the most valuable information. For example, if the subject
is violence against women, the faces that illustrate those numbers
have to be shown; but not in the form of pain, tears, blood, and
blows. Gonzalez recommends to delve into what was or is behind,
seeking other narratives.
- Scrutinize fear: fear always plays an important role in violence. The work of a journalist is to scrutinize it. In cases of rape, for example, journalists must inquire into the silence of women who do not report it, find out how the offender isolated her, terrified her, threatened her. It is a way to break another barrier: that of collective silence, to play against the normalization of violence.
The Workshop "Mujeres líderes en las salas de redacción" (Leading women in the newsroom), which includes the participation of 16 editors and reporters from Latin America, will take place in Santiago, Chile, from March 14th to 17th. This activity is organized by the Fundación Gabriel García Márquez para el Nuevo Periodismo Iberoamericano -FNPI- (Gabriel Garcia Marquez Foundation for the New Ibero-American Journalism and CAF, Development Bank of Latin America, with the support of the Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile (Catholic University of Chile). The workshop is led by Mónica González, Director of Ciper and Member of the Governing Council of the FNPI.