the Information Revolution
and the Beijing Conference

What did the Fourth World Conference on Women
say about electronic networking?

Recognizing the speed and importance of technological changes in electronic communications, the PfA adopted by consensus in Beijing called on organizations at all levels to increase the participation and access of women to expression and decision-making in and through the media and new technologies as a means of strengthening women's participation in democratic processes.

The PfA identified the need for access, training and network development for women. Chapter J, "Women and the Media", specified that:

Women should be empowered by enhancing their skills, knowledge and access to the information technology. This will strengthen their ability to combat negative portrayals of women internationally and to challenge instances of abuse of power of an increasingly important industry... Women therefore need to be involved in decision-making regarding the development of the new technologies in order to participate fully in their growth and impact. [29]

The Platform called on international organizations, Governments, media systems, NGOs and media professional organizations to increase the participation and access of women to expression and decision-making in and through the media and new technologies of communication.

Concerned about the image of women projected in the media, participants at the FWCW agreed that "print and electronic media in most countries do not provide a balanced picture of women's diverse lives and contributions to society in a changing world." [30] The PfA called for a "balanced portrayal of women and girls in their multiple roles" and encouraged the "use of non-stereotyped, balanced and diverse images of women in the media". [31]

The PfA also requested the mass media and advertising organizations "to develop, consistent with freedom of expression, professional guidelines and codes of conduct and other forms of self- regulation to promote the presentation of non-stereotyped images of women" and "that address violent, degrading or pornographic materials concerning women ... ".[32]

At its fortieth session, in March 1996, the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women (CSW), the main intergovernmental body focusing on women, and delegates, experts and NGOs examined the measures proposed in the PfA and agreed that advances in information technology had opened up boundaries. It was agreed that the role of women in global communication networks needed to be strengthened, and that barriers to information technology and to women's involvement at every level of its development should be reduced. [33] These conclusions were subsequently endorsed by the Economic and Social Council.

Notably, several organizations and bodies held meetings in this field in preparation for the Beijing Conference. One important gathering to assess strategies and plans for using electronic networking was held in Bangkok from 12 to 17 February 1994. The "Women Empowering Communication" conference was sponsored by the World Association for Christian Communication (WACC) in association with ISIS International and the International Women's Tribune Centre (IWTC). More than 400 women from over 80 countries participated. As a result of the meeting, the Bangkok Declaration was adopted, which emphasized strengthening women's communication networks. [34]

UNESCO convened an international symposium on "Women and the Media: access to expression and decision-making" in Toronto, Canada, from 28 February to 3 March 1995. A Platform for Action was adopted which stressed the need for greater involvement of women in both the technical and decision-making areas of communication and media. The symposium was attended by over 170 media professionals from more than 70 countries, and its results served as an important input to the negotiations on women and the media at Beijing. Following the Conference, UNESCO and the Society for International Development are studying the culture of the Internet and its potential as an effective tool for women. The project, "Women and Cyberculture", analyses the impact of globalized communications from a gender perspective.

Sexual harassment is also identified in Chapter J of the PfA as one of the acts of gender-based violence encompassed under the critical area "Violence against women". On the Internet, harassment presents an important issue for women. It has occurred in both public forums and private E-mail. It takes different forms and can be subtle, such as personal questions directed to a woman, or blatant, such as sexual propositions to women via E-mail. [35] The Internet neutralizes social status indicators such as appearance, voice, organizational hierarchy and often sex. This anonymity seems to encourage certain individuals to act with fewer inhibitions than they would face to face and remains a disturbing problem.


Women, the Information Revolution and the
Beijing Conference
  • Introduction
  • How fast are computer networks growing?
  • How are women using the information
  • What did the Fourth World Conference on
    Women say about Electronic Networking?
  • Conclusions
    Key Terms to Know
    Did you Know?
    Selected Bookmarks on
    Women's Issues
    Notable Events

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