Campaign India Team
Sep 11, 2013

‘Changing face of Indian women not reflected adequately in media and advertising’

Q&A with Dr AL Sharada, programme director, Population First, on Laadli Media Awards for Gender Sensitivity

‘Changing face of Indian women not reflected adequately in media and advertising’

In brief, how have the awards evolved since their inception? In terms of scale, geographical reach, categories...

The Laadli Media Awards for Gender Sensitivity were instituted March in 2008 as a Mumbai-centric event and scaled up as a national campaign in 2008 with UNFPA support subsequently. The awards cover all the States and Union Territories and 12 languages. Over the years we have added the web category and many special awards are being given to films, books, campaigns, etc. In the first year we received 100 entries and for the last edition we received 1300 entries, which shows that the Laadli Media Awards for Gender Sensitivity are growing more popular and there is more openness to engage with gender issues in the media.

Do you see a positive change in media’s approach to (i) depiction of women in editorial coverage and (ii) issues related to women?

Yes, there is definitely a positive change in the way issues are being covered, with many publications giving more editorial space to articles on gender issues. During the last round of the awards, I was very pleasantly surprised to find even the most traditional women’s magazines weaving in messages about the importance of women having an identity of their own, pursuing their aspirations and negotiating their space in family and society. I strongly believe that each such step will take us towards a more equitable and fair society. Similarly, media has been in the forefront of campaigns against gender violence, which is strengthening the hands of the activists. I agree there are still many issues of lack of sensitivity and sensationalising the incidents for TRPs and readership. But it’s a beginning and I am sure we will evolve and be able to work together for a more gender sensitive media

What are the biggest issues relating to media reportage w.r.t. gender sensitivity today?

While there has been lot of sensitive writing in the editorial pages, I feel the reporting particularly on gender violence issues is still very shallow, with the reports going overboard exposing details of the incident with utter lack of sensitivity. Sometimes such reports compromise the privacy of the survivor and also influence the way the case is pursued by the judiciary and the police.

There is a lot that still needs to be done. We need more writing and programming about the policies and programmes from a gender perspective. We need to engage in more rigorous dialogue with those forces in society who believe in and perpetrate gender inequities and violence. I still feel that the changing face of Indian women is not being reflected adequately in the media and advertising.

How would you evaluate, broadly, television versus print media, in terms of their gender sensitive portrayal of women?

I was very hopeful when there was a spurt of television serials on social issues like child marriages, female infanticide etc. However, there is a little hesitancy in going the full hog with many such serials once again getting into the mode of family intrigue, stereo-typing etc. Often the creative directors sight audience preference. There is a need for the audience and the media to evolve together. As regards the news media, I feel the desire to break news and feed information on real time basis is leading to insensitive and voyeuristic reporting in the electronic media particularly with regard to gender violence. Though, some news papers are not lagging behind on that score. However, the consistent campaigns against sex selection, khap panchayats, and gender violence being carried on by the print media are helping create public awareness and opinion about the issue and are putting pressure on the government to initiate action.

Web features as a category in the media awards – will this be more difficult to sensitise, given the universal nature of content generators?

While the mainstream media is getting more and more globalised and corporatised, web media is presenting opportunities, space and readers for those who are working on gender and other social development issues, which are not a priority for the mainstream media. The web media, including blogs, facebook, e-journals and papers, is helping us present the alternate perspectives and positions. It is true that it is not possible to sensitise or monitor all the content because it is an open medium and should remain so to a large extent, except when it comes to criminal and unlawful activities. We all should learn to use the medium responsibly and effectively. More important is the danger of the alternative voices being silenced even on the web media through censorship and violence by the regressive social forces.

Is there a student leg of the awards envisaged / undertaken, engaging journalism / advertising schools?

We had two rounds of Creative Excellence Awards for advertising and creative professionals to develop appropriate communication and campaign material on the theme of pre-birth sex selection, which is available at The material and merchandise developed are being used in the campaigns by NGOs and the Government. Though we wish more people and government agencies access the material and use it extensively.

Last year, we launched the IMM (1 Minute Movie) contest for media, journalism and advertising students from Mumbai colleges. Seven movies were made on the theme of violence against women (

This year, we have made it into a national contest inviting entries from students of premier colleges like IITs, IIMs, management, communication, media, design and film institutes. The theme is ‘Young Mother’s: The hidden tragedy of Indian women’.

We are also organising intercollegiate contests for blog writing, essay writing and street plays for undergraduate students of Mumbai colleges under the aegis of ‘Change Makers Clubs’ which are formed in colleges to initiate a dialogue on gender issues with the youth.

(More details on the Laadli Media Awards for Gender Sensitivity is available at

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