South African women in media must take up decision-making roles in various media and communication platforms, especially in film organisations and film production companies.

So said Hazel Hove Dorcas, a media and gender expert and keynote speaker at the monthly The Friends of FEPACI Forum South Africa (FOFSA), held in Newtown last month (August 2009). FOFSA, conceptualised by the Federation of Pan African Filmmakers to tackle various arts industry issues, particularly those to do with film, is sponsored by the GFC and supported by the Department of Arts and Culture.

�South African women must be given the support they deserve and, on merit, they must take up media leadership roles alongside their male counterparts.�

Dorcas called upon women in media to advance their positions and make themselves felt across all forms of communication, particularly film. �Women�s voices in media are conspicuous by their absence.�

She stressed that the case of women in media in South Africa - and the rest of the continent - was so appalling that it was now time to encourage women to rise to different platforms so they could liberate themselves. This way, women could also gain ground in socio-economic developments alongside their male counterparts.

�They must use film as a medium to express and to liberate themselves. Through women�s media, women can empower themselves. This positive portrayal of women will attract peace, development and economic emancipation for the continent. In South Africa, there is a need for more women in leadership roles in many socio-economic spheres,� she said.

Dorcas believes that women in media face many challenges, including the low numbers of women media owners and managers; their lack of share of voice; stigma and discrimination in the workplace; sexual harassment; women�s lack of access to and participation in the mainstream communication media as well as the general negative portrayal of women in the mainstream media.

She stressed that despite this, women in media have the power to influence issues and so must be involved in media platforms were they are visible as creators and leaders. She gave the example of Federation of Pan African Filmmakers (FEPACI) and the proposed South African Media Women Association as foundations that can champion women�s advancement in media.

Kenyan musician, Sara Mitaru, who also addressed the Forum, called upon women in media to assist each other in order to keep up the pressure against forces retarding their advancement in media and communication.
�As women, we need to invest in each other. I urge us women to tell our own stories because nobody, other than ourselves, will ever tell our own stories,� she emphasised.

Finance specialist and DTI official, Julia Nzimande, encouraged women in media to understand the complex and often misunderstood issue of film finance, describing film finance as �a very secretive aspect of film production.�