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USAID Media Program in Ukraine improves gender equality and gender sensitive reporting in Ukrainian media

Gender stereotypes have a negative influence on the societal roles and everyday decision making of women and men in Ukraine. At the age of boosting social media platforms, stereotyped images of women and men circulated by media can undermine progress made on gender equality in society. Gender neutral portrayals of women and men in media can be a key factor in promoting and strengthening social awareness of gender equality as well as in preventing and rooting out gender discrimination.

Bohdana Stelmakh is the head of Volyn Press Club, a local NGO that serves as platform for gathering, professional development, and experience exchange for local media in northern West of Ukraine where gender stereotypes and strong religious traditions are reflected in many areas, including the media. She also works with media across the country to help them address gender related issues.


Even before cooperating with Internews, she started talking to Volyn journalists about how important it is not to discriminate against people on the basis of gender or spread gender stereotypes. She invited them to press conferences and forums where gender issues were raised, but she often faced misunderstanding and dismissal of the issue from journalists. This pushed Bohdana to think about the need for systematic efforts to increase media gender sensitivity.

With USAID support, Volyn Press Club launched gender monitoring of news content quality of Volyn media and organized a series of trainings and gender media cafes for regional journalists in 2013. The first media cafes focused on topics of gender-based violence and human trafficking of women, gender pay gap, and sexism in advertising and media. The format of the media cafes, which involved informal discussion with experts on topical issues in a cafe, prompted positive feedback from local journalists. According to the data obtained by monitoring 430 Ukrainian local media, only 40% had editorial policies, only 3% of which spoke about non-discrimination on the grounds of gender or the inadmissibility of gender discrimination.

Despite progress, no outlet had agreed to formally incorporate gender policies into their editorial practices as of 2019. Nevertheless, Bohdana did not give up: she  pioneered the idea of holding a Gender Media School, a three-day event where media workers could learn the principles of gender policies, foreign experience and practices, and approaches to gender sensitive journalism. Since 2018, eight Gender Media Schools have taken place. Volyn Press Club also continued informal thematic meetings in the form of gender media cafes, a series of trainings, and systematic communication and mentoring of journalists in writing materials on gender issues.

At the end of 2020, the first 14 newsrooms in Ukraine adopted non-discrimination and gender equality policies. By June 2021, that number had risen to 28 print and online media outlets in various regions of Ukraine.

Screenshot of a map of media outlets that have adopted gender policies in their newsrooms’ work in 2020-2021. Source: Volyn Press Club

Dyvys.Info journalist Valeria Pechenyk stated: “Before I started a gender column for Dyvys.Info (Lviv regional media) within the Volyn Press Club project and dove deeper into the topic, I did not know much about the topic of gender sensitivity. Because I used to think something like this: the inequality of our rights is not critical, it is not the Taliban, after all, so my voice is not very important here…I was bitterly mistaken, first, about the scale of the problem, and second, about the insignificance of my voice in this choir. So don’t do [as I did]…start speaking about inequality of women’s rights in Ukraine now.” Pechenyk regularly covers topics such as women’s rights, gender stereotypes, and domestic violence to raise citizens’ awareness about the importance of those issues for both women and men.

Photo:  VIII Gender Media School in 2021. Source: Volyn Press Club’s Facebook page.