Asian media, including The Straits Times, help 'break the bias' on International Women's Day

The project seeks to challenge prejudices against women in various Asian societies. ST PHOTO: KUA CHEE SIONG

SINGAPORE - The World Editors Forum (WEF) and a major Asian media association have come together to amplify the push for women's equality on International Women's Day (IWD) on Tuesday (March 8).

WEF - part of the World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers (Wan-Ifra) - and the Asia News Network (ANN) are collaborating to cast the spotlight on the unique challenges faced by women from all walks of life across Asia, and to promote their empowerment in the region.

Based on IWD's theme for this year "Break The Bias", the project seeks to challenge prejudices against women in various Asian societies, and to highlight the progress made in addressing these issues in recent years.

"It is important that the unique challenges Asian women face - particularly during an unprecedented pandemic - are highlighted because vulnerable voices do not all sound the same," said WEF Asia Chapter chairwoman Esther Ng, who is also chief content officer at the Star Media Group in Malaysia.

"If we are to effectively 'break the bias', we must first show that a bias exists within the different socio-economic and cultural context of the different countries (across Asia)... And it is crucial that we record this," she added.

The Straits Times, The Star daily and the official Bernama news agency in Malaysia as well as its Indonesian counterpart, the Antara news agency, are collectively producing a series of data-based news features over the next six months, focused on issues Asian women face in the workforce because of their gender, and societal perspectives on the notion of "unpaid work".

In a package published over the weekend, ST took stock of Singapore's progress in improving attitudes of inclusivity among local companies, including DBS Bank.

One woman was hired by another financial institution when she was in the advanced stages of her pregnancy; another was given regular time off to see to the needs of her autistic son despite intense work commitments, while a third, who has impaired vision and hearing, was happy with her job in a home-grown start-up.

An earlier ST "Celebrating Women" series featured a Singaporean lawyer who pushed on stubbornly with work despite being at death's door; a former Singapore Airlines stewardess who beat long odds to become a politician in the Japanese Parliament; an outspoken teacher in India who seized a rare chance for change in her matrilineal society, and a Malaysian activist determined to publicly broach an "unspeakable" topic.

ST has put the collection of premium feature stories outside its paywall - making them free for all to read online - as part of the newspaper's contribution on International Women's Day this year.

"For some years now, the World Editors Forum has put issues related to diversity and inclusiveness on the agenda, both for our newsroom and beyond. This effort by the WEF Asia chapter... brings together leading journalists and newsrooms from around Asia to delve into challenges women face in our societies, and what we can all do to address these," said WEF president Warren Fernandez, who is editor of The Straits Times as well as editor-in-chief of SPH Media Trust's English, Malay and Tamil Media Group.

"More and more newsrooms will have to work together to help tackle some of the big challenges of our times. This is why we are happy to be part of this effort," he added.

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