Coming together to challenge patriarchy

When I started working doing the research for the three pilot episodes of Engender, I immediately felt the energy of people coming together to tackle gender inequality in South African society. There was an understanding that the Engender series was being created to give a platform or a voice to people who could take us on a journey to show that our world is engendered, to help us understand how gender socialisation impacts on people and society, and to explore feminism as a  movement to organise and act against gender equality.

My role as researcher was to develop the content of each episode, that is to determine the focus of  each episode, to find guest panelists who have the knowledge, experience  and liveliness to discuss the topics in a way that could appeal to all types of viewers. This meant reading academic and popular material, interviewing individuals and the staff of organisations working on gender issues and feminism. It also meant finding video material and developing our own material that could show our viewers that gender inequality is not only a local, but a global challenge and how feminism was getting people to organise and take action.

Another exciting part of being on the team producing Engender, was going out onto the street to record interviews with different people about gender inequality and feminism. Speaking to people around the topics – What is Feminism?, Representations of Gender in Media, and Intersectionality – brought me to the realisation that many people had (and have) experiences of gender inequality and an awareness of feminism. Now, given an opportunity, they were willing to share and discuss. Explaining to people that Engender is a feminist programme was like lighting a fire. Many heated discussions followed starting with, “I thought men and women were equal, why do we still need feminism?” or “Yes we need feminism as gender inequality is so bad. We need more programmes like this.”

Erna in Open Studio

Erna during a TV interview about Engender

Doing the research and being part of the team producing the programme meant that I learnt a lot about the history and development of feminism through time and what it means today. To me it means the recognition of the humanity and equal gender rights of every man and woman, of any age and ability, race, class, culture and ethnicity. I got a chance to be educated about gender and sexual minorities: lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex, queer and asexual (LGBTIQA) people, and the terms and language that we should use to communicate and collaborate to make the spaces we move in safer and inclusive. This presented a challenge – using the wrong terms and language could easily offend or make someone feel excluded and we worked hard to make the production an inclusive, fair and collective space where every person involved could feel free and safe to voice their experience and opinions.

What I liked most about working on Engender was the enthusiasm and positive energy from all involved towards creating a programme where black women and allies controlled, managed and created the content. I did not feel alone, I felt like there was a collective of people collaborating at all times towards the same aim. TV is a powerful medium of communication, information and education that can reinforce gender inequality in society, but it can also be the means of raising awareness and empowering people to act for gender equality.

Each episode of Engender is an hour long, it is a talk show with guests and a studio audience, interesting and entertaining video clips showing global and local voices on each topic. With the pilot series we have just begun the journey of Engender – exploring gender inequality and feminist action to create a more just and equal world for all.

The fire has been lit! And I know we all look forward to hearing from everyone involved and the viewers about the impact of the programme, as much as we look forward to producing more programmes!

More about More about Engender.

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