At Womanity Foundation, addressing gender injustice issues is front and centre of what we do. We also firmly believe that media is an extremely powerful tool for change in the fight for gender equality.
It’s well known that media plays a major factor in shaping power relations, societal norms, and attitudes to gender roles. Currently almost 80% of images of Arab women in Arab media are negative. But the reach and scale of digital media in the Middle East provides a huge opportunity to influence change. Over half the population in the Arab world is under the age of 25, with 93 million people in the region active on social media.
If used right, media can help achieve tremendous positive impact and can act as a catalyst for cultural and societal transformation.
B100Ragl and the power of storytelling
For us, this has meant mobilising even more resources behind our fictional series, ‘B100 Ragl’, which through the clever use of animation, tells stories that closely relate to real life situations faced by women in the Middle East and North Africa every day. The series challenges limiting gender stereotypes and norms which are deeply entrenched in the cultures of the region and brings them to light in a non-threatening and entertaining way. Through this clever storytelling, we have been able to address some of the most complex issues around gender inequality.
Tackling tough topics
By tackling often difficult subject matters with humour and empathy, our chief protagonist, the intrepid journalist Noha, provides a solution at the end of each episode, leading the audience towards positive behavioural change through a process of learning. It is through this solution-based approach that we hope to encourage our audiences to view Noha as a role model for society and apply some of her wisdom and advice into their own personal circumstances with the ultimate aim of encouraging behavioural change and eventually striving towards a more equitable society.
An ambitious and challenging feat we know, but now in its third season, the bite sized series has stood up to this challenge and tackled some pretty sensitive issues including divorce, sexual harassment, women’s access to education and employment, domestic violence, rights and status of single women, raising awareness and encouraging debate around subjects often deemed too taboo to be addressed in traditional media. To date the series has been viewed by over 3 million people across the MENA region.
More women have been feeling comfortable expressing themselves online and on our social media, many of which are discussing things such as education and marriage in order to empower other women to follow their dreams. Importantly, more men are also being supportive of women online. The series has helped in providing information to people who otherwise would not have that information, such as FGM issues, inheritance of nationality. Our social media platform is acting as a safe space for women to be active and expressive online. The topics on domestic violence and on sexual education, sparked engaging conversation.
Balance for Better
In the spirit of this year’s International Women’s Day theme “Balance for Better”, Be100Ragl’s balanced and inclusive approach to addressing gender stereotypes bodes well. We programme for both men and women given that our core mission is rooted in shifting perceptions and stereotypes that collectively hold us back from living in truly inclusive societies.
The narrative is balanced between showcasing the challenges our heroine Noha faces but also highlighting successes where she has managed to overcome adversities; the series is not aimed at just women and girls but adopts a balanced approach, talking to young men and boys. 65% of our audience is male (aged 18-24), adhering to our belief that only by drawing men into the conversation can true and sustainable change be affected; and finally, we welcome and encourage a two way balanced conversation with our audience, eliciting from them real life examples of situations that are portrayed in the series, including them in the narrative development process, as well as engaging with them through screenings, outreach activities and social media to take action.
As with any cultural shift, change around gender roles begins with awareness and education. We are committed to working collectively to delivering a “better balanced” representation of women’s role in MENA, exposing how limiting stereotypes in the media affect everyone and how advocating for more gender balanced narratives that challenge deep rooted traditional biases can ultimately benefit not just women but society as a whole.
Find out more about B100Ragl
Read this Q&A from Rana Askoul, Head of Disruptive Media Solutions, on her role within B100Ragl