Message from Ms. Carolyn Hannan, Director
United Nations Division for the Advancement of Women (DAW)
Expert Group Meeting on
“Participation and access of women to the media, and the impact of media on,
and its use as an instrument for the advancement and empowerment of women”
12 to 15 November 2002
Distinguished experts and observers,
Ladies and gentlemen.
It is my great pleasure to welcome you to the Expert Group Meeting on “Participation and access of women to the media, and the impact of media on, and its use as an instrument for the advancement and empowerment of women.” I regret that I cannot be here in person, as my duties in the Division for the Advancement of Women and the Office of the Special Adviser on Gender Issues and Advancement of Women prevent me from joining you in this very important meeting.
I wish to extend my deep appreciation to the Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA) who so generously offered to host this meeting. ESCWA’s efforts, and indeed the efforts of all the regional commissions to ensure that gender perspectives are an integral part of their work, and their continuing support for gender mainstreaming at all levels, is an inspiration for the rest of the UN system. The tireless work for gender equality and empowerment of women at the regional level is a critical component in the global efforts to achieve equality between women and men.
I also wish to acknowledge the invaluable collaboration with the Department of Public Information and the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization in the preparations of this meeting.
I am delighted to welcome the distinguished participants in this meeting who come from diverse backgrounds, and represent innovative and strategic thinking in the area of women and the media from around the world. I thank the experts for accepting the invitation of the Secretary-General, and welcome the observers from Governments, non-governmental organizations and civil society, and colleagues from the United Nations system. Your outstanding credentials as information and media specialists, researchers and practitioners in gender equality and the communications field are the best guarantee that this meeting will recommend concrete actions to endure that the media is used as an instrument for the advancement and empowerment of women.
At the Fourth World Conference on Women, the area of women and the media was established as one of the twelve critical areas of concern in the Platform for Action. The Platform notes that advances in information technology have aided in the growth of a global communications network that has impacted public policy, private attitudes and behaviour. Gender-based stereotyping and professional inequality were identified as barriers to the representation and career advancement of women in the media industry. The potential of the media for contributing to the advancement and empowerment of women was further recognized. In addressing the issue of the mobilization of the media, Governments and other actors were urged to promote an active and visible policy of mainstreaming a gender perspective in policies and programmes.
The Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) at its fortieth session in March 1997, examined measures to be used for increasing the participation and access to decision-making in and through the media and new communication technologies. The Commission made recommendations for Governments and relevant UN bodies in five areas:
- Respect for the human rights of women, including freedom of expression, and the media;
- Self-regulation, voluntary guidelines and responsiveness to civil society;
- The important role of media education;
- Creating an enabling environment; and
- Women and global communications.
At the five-year review of the Platform for Action held in New York in June 2002, the General Assembly acknowledged achievements made in the implementation of strategic objectives under the critical area of concern of women and the media. Increased access to high-level decision-making positions for women had been achieved. The establishment of local, national and international women's media networks had improved global information dissemination, exchange of views, and support to women's groups active in media work. The development of ICTs had provided communication opportunities and had influenced the participation of women in the media. The number of women's media organizations and programmes had multiplied, facilitating increased participation and positive portrayal of women in the media.
However, at the same time, many obstacles to the achievement of the goals established in the Platform for Action remained. Women were still not employed in key decision-making positions in sufficient numbers to influence media policy. Negative images of women and stereotyped portrayals continued to exist, and in some contexts had even increased. Stereotypical attitudes and behaviour in local, national and international media were still clearly evident. The field of ICTs was male-centred and language barriers and high costs of equipment and internet access effectively barred most women from full utilization of the internet.
Several important new elements were introduced in the outcome document. Support for national efforts was recommended, particularly in developing countries, for enlarged access to new information technology as part of the efforts to develop collaborative research, training and information dissemination, while at the same time supporting traditional methods of information dissemination, research and training. There was also the suggestion of capitalizing on new information technologies, including the Internet, to improve the global sharing of information, research, and to draw on lessons learned from women’s experiences, including “Herstories” related to achieving gender equality, development and peace.
The outcome document also encouraged Governments, regional and international institutions (including the United Nations) to cooperate and work with private sector partners and media networks at the national and international levels to promote equal access for women and men as producers and consumers, particularly in the area of ICTs, including through encouraging the media and the information industry consistent with freedom of expression to adopt, or develop further codes of conduct, professional guidelines and other self-regulatory guidelines to remove gender stereotypes and promote balanced portrayals of women and men.
The nature and scale of the continued marginalization of women in the media, together with the difficulty of establishing effective systems of accountability in an increasingly commercial and globalizing media marketplace, mean that no single strategy can accomplish a great deal on its own. Ideally, a variety of approaches is needed which support and sustain each other. The experts at this meeting are mandated to consider experiences and approaches that have proven successful in specific contexts, and to draw out lessons learned and good practices and to provide recommendations for policies and actions. The discussions should be forward-looking and identify emerging trends and new challenges in order to more effectively promote the empowerment of women in the media and information fields at the local, regional and global levels, and to ensure that the media can be utilized effectively as a powerful tool for promoting equality between women and men.
The deliberations and recommendations from this meeting will provide valuable input into the consideration of this topic at the forthcoming session of the Commission on the Status of Women in March 2003.
I wish you a fruitful meeting.