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This week we asked members of the Girl Engagement Advisory Board to share their thoughts on how media portrayals of girls and women in their countries affects how their communities view the role of girls. Check out what they said!

In Ramadan, numerous new Egyptian tv shows and series are released. Sadly, the image of the Egyptian women in these shows is a huge lie. I watched a few episodes of some shows and I was really shocked. Violence against women is portrayed as nothing but normal. Young school girls smoke and do drugs. Women have no respect, no voice, and are treated horribly by men. I do not even know how Egyptian actresses agreed to play these roles and ruin the image of women like this. Although there are young girls who smoke and women who are abused, this is definitely not the norm in the country. Moreover, these shows actually encourage men to disrespect women. They encourage violence and the use of drugs. They give the world, especially the Arab world, a distorted image of Egyptian women. Fortunately, there are some campaigns against this. One of them is led by a relative of mine who I support fully and am very proud of. The campaign asks people to use social media to discourage the production of such shows and to tell people to stop watching them. I really hope these campaigns succeed and Egyptian women speak up and be heard. – Mai, 16, Egypt

The Media! The Media! What a powerful tool in building a country. Everyone turns to the media for information and entertainment through its different forms be it via movies, music, soap operas, adverts etc. The negative media portrayals of girls and women in my country not only affects communities at large but also girls and women themselves. Low self-esteem, depression, and eating disorders are the leading mental problems facing girls, and they are linked to sexualized advertisements of girls and women as slim and inferior beings, weaker vessels to the men. Girls are portrayed as sex objects in movies, videos, and advertisements. Yet, the media has been of great help in the promotion of advocacy programs centered at the promotion of youth sexual and reproductive health. Because most media depictions of women serve to sexualize, rather than empower, women, actions should be brought against media houses which portray girls as sexual objects. Meetings should be held with the leaders of the movie and music industry in ensuring that girls are seen as “potential leaders” in their movies and music videos and not “potential harlots.” If possible, laws should be passed to enforce high standards for media portrayals of women. But most importantly, all girls should put on the coat of high self esteem and continue raising our voices against this until we are heard!! – Elizabeth, 19, Nigeria

The media is a communication channel through which news, education, entertainment and promotional messages are disseminated. The media can either destroy or build a country. Many people really depend on media either to receive communications or give out messages. Our media of today has really portrayed women as very inferior creatures who doesn’t have a mind. And this has changed the way people look at women. According to most movies, soaps, and even music women are seen as prostitutes are even sex toys. If you want to see how a naked woman looks like u just tune to one of the stations on TV especially entertainment and there you go. Most jobs are given to men since the society thinks that women can’t handle such jobs, the work of women is to expose their bodies for money or being used as toys this has affected our country at large and I think the media should now see women.as superior creatures who can do amazing job and take the country to the next level. – Caren, 21, Kenya

The media, as we already know, is a very influential medium that is largely responsible for the inferior image of women. Let me give you some examples. A cooking oil ad is going around nowadays in Pakistan which shows how a women is cooking food for her entire family. Her daughter is playing with the dolls but her mother forces her to cook as well. As they serve the food to the male members of their families, they seek their appreciation desperately. The males eat the food and slowly nod. This acceptance of their food is followed by the females dancing around the house while washing the dishes. Another ad concerning a mobile company shows how a man goes into a mobile shop and is greeted by a dark fully covered woman. Whereas in another shop he is greeted by a dancing, fair and seductive woman. That’s right. We all know which mobile he ended up buying.

This is disgusting. These ads largely influence the general perception of the audience and I’m sure there are way worse ads/movies/tv shows out there showing how women are inferior to men or can only be posed as ‘sexy and seductive’. We cannot let these stereotypes float around us but efficient steps need to be taken in order to eradicate this mindset. Regulation of media with an insurance of equal gender roles showcased can greatly help. – Hamna, 17, Pakistan

The negative portrayal of girls in media in my country and abroad is actually one of the main reasons that I felt compelled to get involved in Girl’s Advocacy and sought to be apart of the Girl Engagement Advisory Board.

I watched the representation of girls change in my lifetime from being a situation where girls had the opportunity to prove themselves in any arena as skilled and qualified individuals to one where she became a flat stereotype of ‘hot or not’. This only worsened with the popularity of Reality television where the main focus shifted to a girls’ fashion choices and body image. Girls as young as six began desperately wanting to emulate what they saw on these television shows and were deprived of their childhoods wanting to be seen as adults.

One of the best ways I can think of to remedy the negative impact that media has on the image of girls is to use it as a tool to our advantage. The effective use of media as a tool to boost the self-esteem of girls can be viewed in the Documentary ‘Miss Representation. Media, like our voices, is a powerful tool that can be used to shape and weave the fabric of our society, it can equally be used as a weapon if the wrong persons are in control. We must therefore ensure that the right message gets out there.It is an honour to be a part of an Advocacy group that is a positive response to the negative stereotypes of girls globally.- Christel, 19, Jamaica