ITUC Spotlight Interview with Diatou Khady Cissé (SYNPICS -Senegal)



Spotlight Interview with

Diatou Khady



"We need to

build bridges to mobilise men to fight for equlity too"

Brusssels, 28 September

(ITUC OnLine):  Diatou Khady Cissé, editor-in-chief of Senegal's national

television station, is president of the Senegalese journalists' union(SYNPICS),

and vice-president of the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ*), the

first African woman to hold such a post.  She believes the media can still be

very male chauvinist, like the society she comes from. She emphasises the need

to target training at decision-makers in the media, and to integrate a gender

dimension at every level of the global development dynamic.

How have you combined your professional career with

your commitment to equality?

It's true that I have worked on

women's issues a lot.  I took some time out of the newsroom to work in private

organisations.  I was the communications officer for the AFVP (the French

Association of Volunteers for Progress) an international NGO. Afterwards I

became director of a project for empowering women and promoting women's rights,

funded by Canadian development cooperation. Finally I was head of the Resource

Development and Communication's Department at Aide et Action, a French

international NGO. I am currently a television producer and president of the

Senegalese journalist's union, SYNPICS.
What progress has been made in equality issues in your

professional environment ?

Equality has slowly but steadily

progressed in the newsrooms.  We often seem to forget that the media is still a

very male chauvinist world.  Journalists are not always the most progressive of

people; they come from the same cultural background as their public.  It is

understandable therefore that all the sexist stereotypes we find throughout

society are also present in the media.

What prejudices and stereotypes


Women in the media are seen as women first, and

journalists second.  This sexist divide explains why women are to a large extent

confined to the so-called social interest subjects while men deal with the

political, scientific and economic issues.  There are several factors keeping

these obstacles in place: women in the media have internalised the roles

attributed to them. Strategic posts on editorial teams are still monopolized by

men to a large extent.  The decision-making men in the media have often

completely jettisoned equality issues.   There have developed a resistance of

course and yet they are rarely the target of gender training. The status quo in

the media is considered completely normal.  Media professionals need to put on «

gender » glasses to get a clearer view of their working environment.

What, in your view, are the best

ways of tackling these attitudes?

Gender promotion requires

profound change; it is no small matter. Everyone knows that social change is a

long term process. I think the equality debate should take place everywhere, and

we need to deconstruct the way our societies are organised so that people

realise that there is nothing innate about gender roles, they have simply been

constructed.  States also need to show real political will.  It is not about

having a ministry for women, just to keep up with the times. Gender must be

present at every level of a strategy for African development. You cannot make

progress by leaving half the human race behind.

The problem of violence against women still receives

inadequate coverage in the media. How in your view is the Senegalese media

progressing on this front ?

Personally I believe the media

have done a lot to legitimise the fight against violence against women.  Not a

day goes by when they don't talk about it.  It is true however that the way they

report this violence still leaves a lot to be desired.   The tone of the

articles and the words they use often don't convey the seriousness of the

situations.  Furthermore, some include in their reports stereoptypical comments

that abuse and stigmatise the women, or hold them responsible.   There is also

the need to respect the women's anonymity and their dignity, which is

How did your commitment to

trade unionism begin ?

To be honest, I came to the trade

union movement almost by accident. My trade unionism is an extension of my

commitment to equality. At a certain point I felt there was no reason to leave

men to fight the battle alone, so I joined the ranks. With my feminist

background, I soon began to speak out on behalf of women.  I quickly made my way

up to the decision-making levels, until I got to where I am today, at the head

of my union.  This same process later led me to the IFJ, where I am now a

vice-president.  It is the first time an African woman has held this position.

What is the role of women in the

Senegalese journalists' union ? What policies do you think could help them make

progress ?

They are very courageous, even though there aren't

many of them at the top level.  My arrival at the helm of my union triggered

something.  More and more women are becoming leaders of branch unions, and those

who sit on the executive committee with me are becoming increasingly assertive

and showing leadership potential.


you explain how the Senegalese media deal, for example, with the rights of women

domestic workers ?

I don't have the impression that they focus

on this specifically.  The Senegalese media like all others concentrate on

subjects that sell, like politics.  But it is important to take it further.   If

the people working in this field do not develop a real communications strategy

that includes a strategic partnership with the media, there is a strong risk

that there will not be any sustained interest in these subjects by the media.


When it comes to the dramatic

stories about illegal migration, has there been any specific coverage of young

women by the media ?

When a boat runs around somewhere, they

talk about it, but no more than that.  Here again there is a need to go beyond

this symptomatic approach.  The Senegalese media often don't have the means to

carry out in-depth investigations into the whole chain, and the motives that

lead people to leave the country for the mirage of Europe.  It is frustrating to

see that our foreign colleagues, less affected by this than we are, have the

means to do this sort of reporting. Given that it is difficult to report on this

subject in depth in general, obviously women are not the target of any specific


The ITUC's World Women's

Conference is to be held in October 2009, on the theme "Decent Work Decent Life

for Women - trade unions taking the lead in the fight for economic and social

justice and equality".   What does this theme mean to you, and your daily

reality ?

I think this theme is highly relevant.  Women have

the right to fulfilment, as workers, mothers and wives.  It is unfair that they

are forced to choose because of their gender.  These are three key dimensions in

the life of a woman, and for the harmony of family life, and of society in

general.  Women have the right to decent work and a decent life, with all those

key dimensions.

As a media

professional and a trade unionist, what message would you like to convey to

women trade unionists from all the regions who will be taking part in this


Stay mobilised, be determined, but also build the

bridges that will bring men on board.  Not all of them at first, but those who

are open to discussing equality, those who understand the aim of the fight for

gender equality.  
Interview by

Natacha David
 (*) See the International Federation of

Journalists declaration on  "Ethics and

Gender: Equality in the newsroom", Brussels 30-31 May 2009 at
This declaration was published at the end of the IFJ conference attended by

Diatou Khady Cissé in Brussels, together with 60 other journalists from around

the world.
-For more information on IFT gender policies go to :
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