Women and the Media
8 November - 17 December 1999
Working Group Summaries
About the Working Group
In 1995, the United Nations Fourth World Conference on Women was held in Beijing, China. 184 member nations adopted the Beijing Platform of Action (BFPA), a document which analyses and prioritized issues and recommendations till the year 2005. Of the 12 critical areas of concern, one was Women and Media, or Section J as it was called.
Four years have passed since the BFPA was adopted. In the year 2000, two events at the UN headquarters will serve as an opportunity to reflect on the gains made, and challenges ahead. The CSW (Committee on the Status of Women) will meet in March and the Special Session of the UN General Assembly will meet in June.
In preparation for this, WomenWatch is sponsoring, and Women Action 2000 facilitating, a "Virtual Working Group", looking at emerging issues in women, communications and media, with a focus on the impact of information and communication technologies (ICTs).
The goal of the "Women and Media" Working Group is to discuss if the objectives of the BPFA regarding women and media have been realized and what still needs to be done. Has there been progress in portrayal and position of women in media? What are the emerging issues in the area of communications? Can these be seen as obstacles or opportunities for women?
1. Information and communication technologies (ICTs)
In the past decade, advances in information technology have facilitated a global communications network that transcends national boundaries impacting on public policy, private attitudes and behavior, especially of children and young adults, but also providing unprecedented communication opportunities to organizations and individuals.
Can women be empowered by enhancing their skills, knowledge and access to information technology? Will this strengthen their ability to combat negative portrayals of women and increase their presence in the media internationally? Have women been involved in decision-making regarding the development of the new technologies?
Have women's organizations developed strategies to use communication systems, including new technologies, as a means of strengthening women's participation in democratic processes? Are there example we can cite?
2. Media policy and portrayal
More women are involved in careers in the communications sector, but few have attained positions at the decision-making level or serve on governing boards and bodies that influence media policy.
Has the portrayal of women in electronic, print, visual and audio changed? Has the number of women in decision-making positons increased and how has this affected the portrayal of women in media? Have there been advocacy efforts to monitor and work with media, gender-sensitive training for media professionals, media owners and managers?
Have governments and other stakeholders made effective efforts to mainstream a gender perspective in policies and programs? How much has women's participation in media increased? Have there been efforts to initiate training programs for women to produce information for the mass media, using new technologies of communication?
3. Women's networks and media
The Beijing Platform underlines the importance of women's media and networks in promoting debate, disseminating information and facilitating the increased participation of women in communication.
What kinds of women's networks -- women's organizations and professional media organizations exist? Has there been research and implementation of a strategy of information, education and communication aimed at promoting a balanced portrayal of women and girls and their multiple roles?
How are women's communication networks improving women's access to information? Have women's media networks been encouraged, including cultural forms of indigenous peoples? What initiatives exist in areas such as translation, repackaging, funding and technical assistance to women locally so that they can participate more fully in global and regional debates around development issues?
4. Freedom of expression and social responsibility of the media
There is a trend of increasing consolidation of large national and transnational media corporations and fusion of telecommunications and media, backed by powerful economic interests. There is a debate as to whether these developments could be regulated by law or be self-regulatory.
How does this trend affect the social responsibility of the media and what is the impact on women's freedom of expression and access to pluralistic information sources? Is transnationalization of the media leading to homogenization of cultures and how does this impact on the portrayal and status of women? What does it mean for the future of community designed and controlled media forms? Does commercialization of media and the Internet mean women will be treated mainly as consumers?
Have women participated in the development of professional guidelines and codes of conduct to promote balanced and non-stereotyped portrayals of women by the media, or addressing violent, degrading or pornographic materials, including advertising?