SAT-7 ARABIC produced an interesting and very useful series of 28 documentaries entitled, “And I Am Not Just a Woman,” followed by a detailed analysis of audience responses to the series. The study helped SAT-7 to determine and quantify the impact of the programs on attitudes about women. In addition to the documentaries, the project included a series of short TV spots raising awareness about the rights of women and a series of live talk shows in which women discussed the challenges faced by many as sole providers for their households.
Because of a lack of freedom and democracy in much of the Middle East, it is difficult to measure the impact of any type of media campaign. Often, people are afraid to answer freely and honestly to questions posed by market researchers; and there is no TV rating system in place.
In order to implement the study, a baseline survey was done before the series aired. After the baseline survey, satellite dishes were set up enabling families to watch SAT-7. (Note that watching these particular programs was entirely voluntary.) After eight months of exposure to the documentaries, spots and talk shows, a final survey was conducted.
The SAT-7 team realized that the notion of changing people’s attitudes on such deeply held cultural beliefs as those about women would be difficult at best, and they did not expect to see much of an effect on the surveyed group. When the remarkably positive results came in, they were very, very pleased!
A significant positive change was noted on eight out of thirteen indicators; one indicator showed no significant change; and four indicators were negative.
Here are some specifics:
- The number of respondents who think rape happens because of girls’ bad behavior has fallen from 53.6 to 43.9 percent.
- The number of people who think that a woman abandoned by her husband has probably been a bad wife has decreased from 32 to 22.3 percent.
- The number of people who think that a young widow seen coming home late in the evening is having an affair has decreased from 31.7 percent to 23.8 percent. Female respondents to this question were most positively impacted, which is good news because the gossiping mostly occurs among women.
- The number of men surveyed who believe that the proper place for girls and women is in the home decreased from 57.7 percent to 42 percent.
- “Girls have the same right to education as boys.” This indicator was negative, even though the documentaries and talk shows stressed the importance of educating girls. Because the negative change occurred among illiterate and males, it’s possible that programs showing the difficulties of women married to unemployed, uneducated men fostered the notion that more men should be given an education and a job at the expense of women.
- “Women should have a say in budgeting and spending money.” This indicator was negative across all groups.
- “Girls under 18 should not be allowed to marry.” The negative indicator across all groups was surprising, given many programs’ attention to the problems of early marriage.
SAT-7 programming aspires to positively change the attitudes of individuals—and, eventually, those of society at large—toward relevant and controversial issues. And because that process is always very long and difficult, it is encouraging to see even the tiniest indicators of progress! And to see analytical data—significant numbers—is reassuring, indeed!
As Women for Middle East HOPE, our prayers and monetary gifts to SAT-7 support documentaries like “And I Am Not Just a Woman” and many other programs and projects that advocate for women, children and families.
USA Project Manager