Navigating a changing world: media's gendered prism. Illustration by Enas Satir.
Illustration by Enas Satir.

IMS' reader on gender and sexuality

This online publication is a celebration of intersectional feminist journalism. Here you will find those rare pieces outside of mainstream media full of wit, sharpness, critique and the passion that characterise the stories IMS’ partners in the Global South tell to denounce and resist patriarchal society.

Media is not merely channeling and describing these realities but has the power to challenge mainstream narratives and stereotypes, push to change norms and values and raise issues onto the public agenda. It can also help in fighting impunity, holding decision makers accountable and promoting the rights of people of all genders. By boosting this journalism, IMS hopes to contribute to the feminist struggle towards enabling a just and equal world for all.

In 2021, IMS deepened its commitment to gender equality with a new gender strategy. As we discussed how to move forward in our intent to promote ethical, public interest, human rights journalism, we realised that the path was before our eyes. Our partners have been producing a body of work on gender issues with the potential to transform lives, set the political agenda, create awareness of social injustices, break taboos and demand accountability. All that content production can be encompassed under intersectional feminist journalism, a lens from which we will continue seeking inspiration to further our work.

This updated version of IMS’ gender reader, Navigating a changing world: Media’s gendered prism, covers points from sexual and reproductive health to rights in Pakistan and Nepal to living a LGTBIQ+ life in the Middle East to the women’s searches for their own safe spaces in Syria and Colombia. You will find yourself moving among the protesters in Lahore, Beirut and Khartoum calling for change, and you will meet brave people of all genders who resist gender norms and opposes oppression. You will learn that the hymen is in your mind, that feminists can enjoy rap, how cinema can change our narrative on violence and much, much more.  Most of all, you will see that no matter where you are today, patriarchy is around you and the struggle for equality is shared among peoples and cultures.

As the #MeToo movement went through a second global wave with #UnVioladorEnTuCamino, #MeTooMosque, Collectif 490 and so many other expressions, women remained on the frontlines, resisting backlash, leading uprisings, connecting authoritarian and patriarchal oppression with gender-based violence and exposing the gendered impact of the Covid-19 pandemic. Feminist movements are gaining male allies, willing to challenge the rigid, stereotypical, and limiting gender norms of boys and men.

This is a brief selection of pieces by our partners that provide a first glimpse into the debates in different parts of the world. We expect to continue exploring the power of intersectionality and feminism in journalism, side by side with our partners, in order to amplify women’s and oppressed people’s voices.

Gender equality - a cornerstone of media development

IMS is convinced that media cannot be truly professional unless all genders, people from minorities and disadvantaged groups are represented in media production and that media content is free from stereotypical and degrading content. Our vision is that everyone, irrespective of a person’s gender, sexuality, ethnicity, religion, abilities or socio-economic status, can enjoy their right to freedom of expression and participate in the public debate.

IMS supports partners in the Global South to produce content that advances gender equality, amplifies women’s and oppressed people’s voices and reports in an ethical and gender-sensitive way. IMS also supports partners to improve the conditions for female journalists through research, safety of female journalists, equal opportunities and breaking glass ceilings.

Culture and society

Between universalism and narrow culturalism: an interview with Tunisian historian Sophie Bessis

By Nayla MansourSophie Bessis is a historian who also represents a current of universalist feminists, one which may be seen as antiquated next to a modern feminist wave that exalts and celebrates the culturalist. Have we asked enough questions about the position and effect of these two currents? We met Bessis in her Paris apartment

Rap in Tunisia: rogue but masculine

By Reem Bin RajabThe expressions and street idioms are infused with patriarchal notions and draw from a dictionary of male authoritarianism. What we fight against every day – violence, sexual harassment, and economic discrimination based on sexual divisions and male superiority – are issues that the genre never addresses or even cares about. We are

Child reaches age qualifying him to become his mother’s guardian

“We don’t make fun of the issue, but of the people, the culprits and society,” he adds. “Communicating these issues in most traditional formats falls on closed ears and usually preaches to the converted. We believe we are able to reach a bigger and much more diverse audience with satire and in this way challenge

We are all cyborgs: How machines can be a feminist tool

By Nour AhmadUpon hearing the word “cyborg”, perhaps the first thing that comes to mind is a fusion of human and machine. Our imagination might even drift to an image of Frankenstein’s monster or a depiction such as Major Mira Killian in the anime Ghost in the Shell. A cyborg is actually just a hybrid

Opinion: How some Cambodian women contribute to patriarchy

By Theang Soriya“You sell products, not your breasts”, Hun Sen said, adding that authorities should “educate” the online vendors and tell them to change their clothes.Ven Rachna, who sells clothing and lingerie via her Facebook page under the name Thai Srey Neang, was the first victim of the government’s new crackdown on what women wear. Rachna,

Tiny souls in huge camps

When filmmaker Dina Naser starts documenting them in 2012, their respective ages are 11, nine and five. The children speak openly with Naser about the horrors they experienced in Syria, but they remain resilient and cheerful.As the years pass, Naser sometimes loses contact with the family despite her best efforts. But the children continue to

Gender-based violence

Israa Gharib was killed by men and women of the clan

By Diana MoukalledThe “Hasbi Allah” phrase, (“Almighty Allah is enough for me”), that accompanied her clearly recorded tormented voice, doesn’t only reflect helplessness but also a conviction that what is happening couldn’t be resisted.These were the last moments of the “collective execution” of Palestinian woman Israa Gharib, as documented in a harrowing video leaked from

“Honour killings” – mores soaked in women’s blood

[“Honour killings” is set in quotation marks as the term is highly disputed] By Nour Dalati, Hala Ibrahim, Reham Assaad and Mohamed HomsThe “nightmare” channel is dedicated to publishing scandals as well as practices by the opposition forces in the city of Jarabulus, in the northern countryside of Aleppo. Under the pretext of exposing the violations

Early marriage among Tuareg girls

In multiple villages in Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger, women often organise in civil society “listening” clubs which gather to actively listen to and discuss the programmes broadcast by their local radio stations. In IMS’s Sahel programme we have “twinned” these women’s listening clubs with the local radios and given them support so they themselves

Rape, revenge and reactionary tales

By Myint Myat ThuWhat if Mya Mya, the lead character in the Myanmar horror film of the same name, released on 6 February were to enact revenge on the men who gang-raped her, not by menacing them as a forlorn ghost, but by seeking justice as a tenacious survivor?For the moment, such a plot turn

#ENAZEDA. Beyond stories, a political act

The #EnaZeda movement creates a space for thousands of individuals across the country to break the code of silence maintained by patriarchal norms. This audio documentary “#EnaZeda – beyond stories, a political act” by the independent, non-profit media group Inkyfada considers the political side of the movement – through meetings, discussions and critiques – alongside

A secret crime – more than half of journalists in Kurdistan have been sexually harassed

By Koral Noori (Al-Quds Al-Arabi/Sulaimaniyah)“I screamed in his face at this point and left the station headquarters with my nerves collapsing,” says Aras, raising her eyebrows and raising her voice as if to regain the tone of her director’s speech. Before joining the channel affiliated with the Kurdish parties represented in parliament, Aras, 29 years old,

Sexual and reproductive health

A dark story

“A dark story” is a short documentary film produced by Tana Bana Private Limited where women from the Badi community talk about these dark aspects of their life in a dark, closed room. It is their first time telling their stories openly to an outsider. In order to protect their privacy, the story was filmed

The hymen… is in your head!

By Maya Al-AmmarWomen and girls in many countries around the world suffer under “virginity examinations” which reinforce norms that perpetuate women’s inequality – including stereotyped views of female morality and sexuality – and serve to exercise control over women and girls.Please accept marketing cookies to see this video.What is a hymen, and what is virginity

Boy or girl?

In their podcast, Jordanian podcast media Sowt tries to answer this question in their series Eib (Shame). This series discusses taboos and subjects that are considered shameful, let those who feel shamed share their personal stories and shed light on issues that are silenced in public conversations. Listen to the original podcast in Arabic or read

Advice from women of Burkina Faso: Stop the genital cutting of girls​

In multiple villages in Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger, women often organise in civil society “listening” clubs which gather to actively listen to and discuss the programmes broadcast by their local radio stations. In IMS’s Sahel programme we have “twinned” these female listening clubs with the local radio stations and given them support so they

Politics and economy

Aurat women’s march: “My body, my choice”

The Aurat March (Women’s March) is held despite of a massive opposition from the conservative and religious sections of the society – which explains the deployment of security forces to protect it from attacks. The women’s march is typically portrayed by the media as a disruptive act that wants to upend Pakistan’s social and cultural

Syrian women in political leadership roles

The Assad regime used deadly force to crush the protests demanding the president’s resignation. The unrest spread and the crackdown intensified. Opposition supporters took up arms, first to defend themselves and later to rid their areas of security forces. The Assad regime used besiegement, chemical weapons and scorched-earth policy to forcibly displace the civilians and

Azza fi Hawak: the Sudanese woman and the protest song

By Soha HassanOn 8 April, a picture circulated of a girl, Alaa Saleh, standing on what appeared to be a platform. Only later did it become clear to us that the platform was a white car whose details were obscured by the large crowd surrounding the girl. She stands shrouded in the Sudanese tobe which, with its layers of

Why women choose to migrate from Mali

In multiple villages in Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger, women often organise in civil society listening clubs which gather to actively listen to and discuss the programmes broadcast by their local radio stations. In IMS’ Sahel programme, we have “twinned” these women’s listening clubs with the local radio stations and given them support so they

Queer and masculinities

Cross-dressing in Myanmar: from mystical brides to lip-synching queens​

By Eaint Thet Su​In recent years, gender identity has become one of the most discussed, and controversial, topics in countries throughout the world, including in Myanmar, where an increasing number of people have become more open about expressing non-binary sexuality.Despite murmurs of disapproval in what is an overwhelmingly sexually conservative society, many young Myanmar people,

The overlooked men’s voices in the fight for gender equality

By Khin Chan Myae MaungThe fight for women’s rights is a battle that is happening on several fronts. If it is not being challenged by institutional roadblocks, social taboos or dismissive attitudes towards women’s issues, it is the argument that feminists are “man-haters”. Feminism and feminists are regarded by some as “feminazis”, whereby women are

Homosexuality between phobia and terror

By Hossam El Din DarwishFrom “disorder” to sexual orientationIn recent decades, major shifts occurred in the vocabulary and substance of discourse on homosexuality. These changes have not been limited to the Western world, but to a certain extent pervaded most parts of the world. An important change in this context is the increased use of

Malak al-Kashef and the transgender cause in Egypt: a passcard for both parties

By Ahmad HassanMalak al-Kashef has finally said goodbye to her previous life as Abdelrahman, the male body that was her prison for the first 19 years of her life. After a series of sex reassignment surgeries, she has declared victory over patriarchal norms, abandoned a manhood that had crippled her all her life and is

Women, peace and security

Utopias and political violence: memories of my UP friend

The UP did surprisingly well in local and national elections. Due to this success, beginning in 1988, reactionary forces sought to exterminate the movement; paramilitary forces, with the aid of the military, killed more than 2,500 militants.In 2016, President Juan Manuel Santos apologised for the responsibility of the state. The case is now before the

“This is how the errand was done”

Forced disappearances constitute one of the worst practices of the combatants. The peace agreement signed with the FARC created a special body to search for the disappeared. Most official and media narratives only told the story of men. Through the case of a young girl in the Eastern Plains, one of the war’s epicenters, a

Awá women, mountain people in the city

Through a circle of women and weaving, they supported each other, they built a political consciousness and they became determined to return to their land.They are now exploring the possibility of setting up their own women’s reservation, but they found a number of obstacles: first, they need to be recognised as indigenous women and then

“I sought refuge in an isolated village… Is this the solution?”

Jin War is a village for women and children in the Autonomous Administration of north-east Syria. Hanaa Alkalaf, a 40-year-old mother of three, shares her experience of living in that village and highlights the dilemma of an isolated village like Jin War, that is both a safespace – “a place for abused women or women