UN Women launches South Africa Chapter of the Unstereotype Alliance

Date: Wednesday, February 19, 2020

Founding members of the Unstereotype Alliance at the Launch. Photo: UN Women/Flow Communications
Founding members of the Unstereotype Alliance at the Launch. Photo: UN Women/Flow Communications

UN Women South Africa Multi-Country Office launched the South African National Chapter of the Unstereotype Alliance in Johannesburg on 11 February 2020.

The Unstereotype Alliance, a thought and action platform, seeks to eradicate harmful gender-based stereotypes in all media and advertising content. Convened by UN Women, the Unstereotype Alliance contributes to empowering women in all their diversity and addressing harmful masculinities to help create a gender equal world.

At the 2019 Loeries Creative Awards for Africa and Middle East, UN Women South Africa announced the creation of the Unstereotype Alliance (UA) South African Chapter in collaboration with founding ally members the Loeries and the Marketing Association of South Africa both leading organizations with an important voice in South Africa’s marketing and advertising industry. Facebook and Google were also named as the first corporate members to join. Since the announcement, the Alliance has gained Unilever and Ster-Kinekor as additional founding members.

Over the past two years, the Unstereotype Alliance has built momentum behind notable achievements such as, including “unstereotyped” judging criteria as part of the Cannes Lions jury criterion and expanding its footprint through affiliate national chapters in Brazil, Turkey and now South Africa.

The Alliance has commissioned original research and developed best practice playbooks and measurement tools to help marketers and agency teams create more progressive unstereotyped communications. In addition, it created a global open-sourced single measurement tool to help discriminate between progressive and regressive gender portrayals of characters in advertising.

The launch was used as an opportunity to showcase the impact of unstereotyped advertising; to discuss how corporates and the creative industry can use their massive advertising power and influence for good and towards creating a more gender equal society; and to call for more companies, advertising agencies and creative enterprises to formally join the Unstereotype Alliance.

Speaking at the launch, UN Women South Africa Multi-Country Office Representative, Anne Githuku-Shongwe said, “Toxic gender stereotypes can be unstereotyped if every advert and every marketing campaign portrays the power of women and redefines masculinity.”

As convener, UN Women will be looking to include more influential brands to join the Alliance and lead the creative industry in addressing the unconscious bias against women and girls.

Facebook Africa Country Director, Nunu Ntshingila said her organization was “extremely excited to join the alliance and contribute to an unstereotyped world”. While Google South Africa Head of Marketing, Asha Patel, who called on corporates and advertisers to take responsibility for the content put out to consumers which either promotes or stifles gender equality, “We have to hold ourselves accountable”, she remarked.

The Alliance also recognises the power of partnerships to accelerate progress - the initiative is industry-led and calls on businesses to become champions of addressing gender bias in the creative and consumer industries. Unilever Consumer and Market Insights Director Stacey Grant was optimistic that the Alliance would use their collective influence to bring about much-needed change. “There is power

in collaboration and the Unstereotype Alliance South Africa National Chapter should be supported to achieve its goals,” she said.

Importantly, the national Chapter will thrive on the fact that South African advertisers have already been tackling the issues of stereotypes and realise their role in leading change in society.

Marketing Association of South Africa CEO Sechaba Motsieloa called for action on unstereotyping to be elevated in corporate structures. “We need to begin to have conversations at C-Suite level with marketing companies to eradicate harmful gender-based stereotypes”. Incoming Loeries CEO Preetesh Sewraj agreed stating that creative work must always have an unstereotyped approach. “The challenge is to ensure that we are doing things differently that provoke change.”