United Nations Division for the Advancement of Women

Online Discussion

"Participation and access of women to the media
and their impact on and use as an instrument
for the advancement and empowerment of women

26 August to 27 September 2002

Week Five Summary


I am happy to share with you the summary of the contributions to the wrap up week. These, and the previous weeks' discussions will feed into the Expert Group Meeting on women and media that will be taking place in Beirut, Lebanon on 12 to 15 November 2002. As well, this will serve as valuable inputs to future online discussions on critical issues concerning women.

On the online discussion itself

Two of the discussants-Sharon Bhagwan Rolls from Fiji, Bayo Omolola from the Gambia suggested a continuing [online] discussion. Lene Overland from South Africa also agrees that it should continue, but not as intensive as in the past few weeks. For her part, Bianca Miglioretto of Switzerland doesn't think that the discussion should continue. She says: "I think the productivity of this discussion was because it was a limited time with clear objective (contribution to the EGM) and a clear end. This allowed me and may be also others to participate actively and devote much time to it. After all it is time consuming to read all the messages and remain active. I would rather prefer to have a similar limited discussion again some time with a clear objective."

Suggestions and recommendations

From Bayo Omolola

  1. that a bound copy of the contributions should be produced and mailed to all the participants for future reference.
  2. that all the participants should meet physically and hold another conference on communicating women issues with common goals and common and adaptable strategies.
  3. that the UN should assist the participants with training opportunities in new media technology training and facilities, especially those of us who come from poor countries.
  4. that all stakeholders be encouraged to make use of the strategies mentioned/suggested during the conference.
  5. that in the future, the UN office in each country should be mandated to give publicity to any UN conference in the local media so that many media practitioners and media organisations can become aware and make contributions.
  6. that participants should be paid some amount of money as compensation for whatever they might have incurred in the course of making their contributions during the conference.
  7. that the participants should be notified of the final decisions of the UN on the outcome of the conference.
  8. that there should be a follow-up action.
  9. Enough publicity should be given to future conferences so that more people can participate from Africa and the other parts of the world.
  10. A special space should be created at the conference site for relevant "side talks."
  11. Focus a topic on strategies to get men along for ideas and implementation.

From Lene Overland:
A list of contact details for all of us-so that we can check out each others web pages and meet when we travel all over the world

Recommendations to the EGM

From Sharon Bhagwan Rolls,Fiji and Bianca Miglioretto, Switzerland:

  • That Community media and community radio specifically is a very effective and crucial instrument for women's empowerment and should be realized and supported wherever there is a community or/and a group of women who are interested in it; and especially in times of post conflict situations
  • The digital divide is the most important issue to be addressed by policy makers on ICT. (This does not mean that other issues such as pornography do not need to be addressed.) It is so easy for the "information rich" to marginalize the "information poor" and the ICT industry will not pay any attention to them unless they are forced to by rules and regulations.
  • Assess the impact of the new media such as the Internet on children.
  • The topic of discrimination on the basis of race and other diversities and the media's role in these issues need to be further discussed.
From Nkechi Nwankwo,Nigeria
  • Come up with a statement urging governments, especially those in Africa to draw up policies and invest more in the provision of infrastructure to support the new media and technologies so that citizens can participate and benefit from the global developments in that sector. Improved technology would also reduce the undue stress associated with the media profession and low female participation in them in countries like Nigeria
  • Emphasize the need for individuals, groups and governments to encourage more female participation in the media through the establishment of scholarships and awards for women already in and those intending to get into the media.
  • Consider the establishment of lobby groups in countries and regions to engage media management and help them to establish gender policies and hold them accountable to such policies.
  • Encourage NGOs and other media stakeholders to form networks to monitor media content and react to gender biases and stereotypes in the media.
Feedback on the conduct of the online discussion
  • it went very smoothly and well organized
  • it went smoothly; the coordinator and her team were able to respond to letters on time just as they posted contributions without delay
  • the interaction via e-mail made the conference lively
  • the hidden "side talks" among the participants, during the conference were relevant to the theme. This also has added to the [lively nature] of the conference.
  • the guide questions, the over all objectives, the summaries and the contributions of other women made it easy to participate
  • good technical features of the online discussion; online archive and the daily e-mails that go directly to the mailbox
  • very helpful in bringing to the fore the enormity of the problem as well as the hope that we can change things if we put our minds to it.
Technical recommendations
  • always identify and verify the subject before posting a message - it is difficult to find a file or a contribution that you want to quote because sometimes the subject does not correspond to the text or the subject filled wasn't filled out or several women used the same subject
  • put the name of the person who made the input at the beginning of the subject
  • first time contributors should give a short one paragraph introduction of herself and the work she does. This could also be helpful for side discussions between individual women.

Other inputs

Another interesting topic that came up in the wrap up week is the issue of men's participation in discussions on women's issues. Bayo Omolola believes that men should be engaged in the discourse and that a discussion addressing men's involvement be organized. Cathy Edwards from Canada shared this opinion and underlined the importance "of presenting the case to men in a way that shows them what they have to gain by promoting women's issues…It will always be hard to engage men who have an entrenched stake in existing power structures, especially the big business of the media, but an appeal can be made to almost anyone that overly conservative values, that exclude newcomers, crush new voices and the general vitality of the media." Lene Overland likewise agrees with the idea of involving men in gender discussions. She says: "the more men who speak freely about gender the more male role models for the youth. So I would really encourage as many men as possible to unchain their voices and speak out."

We also received additional contributions to week 4 topic "Impact of the new technologies on media professions and media content." Our contributors, Anjali Mathur from India, Nicola Joseph from Australia, Danijela Babic from Croatia, and Alice Munyua from Kenya identified the following as positive and negative aspects of the new Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs), the key issues that women should address; the steps to encourage media professionals to refer to online materials; and the role of the new ICTs in facilitating networking, information exchange and media education: Positive aspects of ICTs

  • they are easy to master --"if only they can be persuaded to get over their initial fear of computers."
  • a great tool for advocacy and networking because of its interactivity
  • media production is easier and more accessible [but only to people who have good computer support]
  • it's easier to reach out to the youth during the educational campaigns since the young people are prevalent users of Internet
  • local ISPs provide news on their portals that are usually more [gender]-sensitive than many printed media; they also respond to the concerns regarding sexism and pornography in the Internet
  • has increased the ease and decreased the cost of communications
  • presents an opportunity for the generation of information
  • allows for participation in international decision making, voicing new perspectives and increasing the number of ways in which women can participate directly in civic life, enabling them to find allies across communities, nations and regions
Negative aspects of ICTs
  • vulnerability of the technology-computers, which hold enormous data, have a danger of crashing
  • repetitive stress injuries which can result to shoulder and back pain, eye problems - [because of the ease of production, there is a proliferation of] below standard materials
  • the [high] cost of ICT
  • most of the content on Internet is still in English.
Key issues that women need to address
  • access and training
  • difficulty of ensuring authenticity of sources and materials
  • quality of content provided
  • the growing digital divide
  • gender-based barriers, such as, illiteracy, time, costs, geographical location and social and cultural norms, which include women's socialised fears of technology participation in policy development
  • most governments are in the process of formulating their polices and this is advantageous for women's CSOs to get in on the ground floor of policy making so that gender issues can be considered in the early stages.
Steps to encourage media professionals to refer to online materials that will ensure greater diversity and fair gender balance in media output
  • conduct online training [on the use of ICTs] and gender sensitivity [orientation] to educate media practitioners about gender issues.
  • provide support for capacity building and training which goes beyond access and basic applications
  • address personal, institutional and systemic barriers
  • support content development and dissemination

Role of the new ICTs in facilitating networking, information exchange and media education

- building of resource pages for "ethnic" community broadcasters which will provide links to useful websites and contacts for their programs-as in the case of the National Ethnic and Multicultural Broadcasters Council of Australia

Addition to week 3 - Representation and content issues

As an additional input to the week 3 topic on "Representation and content issues," Lene Overland shared with us the results of a media monitoring project conducted by the Women's Media Watch South Africa that looked into constructions of masculinities and femininities in the South African Broadcasting Corporation and e-tv news reporting. The dominant masculine constructs that came out were: "men as aggressors, protectors, mediators, professionals, experts, criminals, as hard and tough beings, as loud and active members of society. On the other hand, the dominant femininity is being helpless victims of violence, or grieving and suffering-in other words, women as wife or mother of, as victims, as emotional beings, as silent, as passive members of society." As well Lena shared with us excerpts from an analytical essay on sexism in advertising that she wrote.

Addition to week 2 - Access, employment, decision-making

Undoubtedly one of our most active contributors in the last week, Lene put in an additional contribution to the week 2 topic on "Access, employment, decision-making." She shared with us the memorandum that Women's Media Watch South Africa submitted to SABC regarding the misrepresentation, under representation and invisibility of women , blacks, the poor and rural communities in South Africa in SABC's news coverage and programming.

Lene also shared with us the various initiatives of Women's Media Watch of South Africa, a media advocacy group that challenges sexism, racism, classism and homophobia in the Southern African media. WMW South Africa is involved in advocacy and activism, media production, training and consultancy, media monitoring, and research.

With this summary, we are concluding our online discussion on "Participation and access of women to the media and their impact on and use as an instrument for the advancement and empowerment of women." Thank you so much to everyone who participated-those who posted and those who read and followed through the discussions. Special thanks to the participants for whom English is neither a first nor a second language. Sincere apologies to those who encountered some difficulties in accessing and posting. I look forward to working on the final report wherein I will be using again the views, opinions, information, and resources that you shared. I also look forward to continued networking and exchanging ideas with all of you. Last but not the least, thank you so much to the UN DAW officers and staff -especially Amina Adam and Arlene Sciancalepore who made this online discussion possible.

Warm regards,

Mavic Cabrera-Balleza

Go to summaries for week: One ,Two , Three , Four , Five
Back to online discussion main page

 Back to top

Division for the Advancement of Women -- DAW

Website: http://www.un.org/womenwatch/daw/
Department of Economic and Social Affairs
United Nations