The European-Arab Monitor for Development Studies

EU Development Cooperation in MENA, Mainstreaming Gender In Media Development

 EU Development Cooperation in MENA, Mainstreaming Gender In Media Development

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“EU Development Cooperation in MENA – Mainstreaming Gender In Media Development-Case study: Tunisia” is a recent study conducted by the journalist and academic researcher Nabila Zayati, in the framework of the master programme Communication for Development, at Malmo University in Sweden.

Zayati asserts that ” Placing gender strategies at the forefront of media development interventions has become a priority for most foreign aid assistance programs in the Global South, as international funds have put women’s empowerment and gender equality at the top of their agendas. The perspective of equal and inclusive participation of women in the media suggests innovative ways and powerful means to raise voices and challenge stereotypical representations in patriarchal and masculine structures and systems.” However, in the Arab world, even though “development assistance for media has flourished at national and regional levels, positive results are still missing”.

This was the starting point of her work as she focuses on the EU’s development cooperation policies that target the countries of the Arab region, and investigates mainstreaming women and gender approaches in media development interventions in the MENA countries targeted by the EU’s new-born instrument, Neighbourhood, Development, and International Cooperation Instrument (NDICI). The study explores, on one hand, the gap between policies and practices and develops, on the other, a model for mainstreaming women in media development.

In the following lines, we report the Abstract of the study which is available for download from the website of the University of Malmo, following this link.

EU Development Cooperation in MENA – Mainstreaming Gender In Media Development-Case study: Tunisia


Following the increasing recognition of the media’s considerable potential to achieve gender equality and women’s empowerment, different media development interventions have been launched to fuel development cooperation efforts structured around a North-South binary.

However, the dynamic interplay of forces behind these efforts puts the effectiveness and sustainability of their results into question. National interests remain hegemonic in the agendas of Northern donors, and challenges to progressive social change are indeed formidable.

Based on pilot research, this project investigates gender strategies in media development initiatives funded by the European Union (EU) in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA). It interrogates the evolution of communication for development (ComDev) theories under a feminist lens in a regional context of development cooperation. Exploring the gap between the EU gender policies and practices in media assistance programmes in Tunisia, this project put forward a proposal for improvement.

The findings are based on participant observation, in-depth interviews, and related work materials analysis.

Despite the commitment of the EU to promote a transformative intersectional gender strategy in all its external actions, the findings suggest that having a gender strategy is not enough and that lack of methodological approaches in media development, weak commitment, and failure to engage with local stakeholders, are severe impediments to implementation. They show, therefore, that the gap between policy and practices has not been bridged.

As such, the proposed model aims to liberate existing gender approaches in media development efforts from manipulative and restrictive policies – of donors and receivers – and overcome ambiguity and uncertainty in programming these interventions.

To read and download the full study click here.

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