is Women´s “J” Spot?
Suárez Toro, FIRE / Women´s Media Pool
the international community prepares to join the United Nation’s
49th Session of the Commission on the Status on Women (CSW),
women media practitioners are asking: where is women’s “J” spot?
known as “Beijing +10,” the role of the official UN session is to
evaluate what governments have done to implement the Platform for Action (PFA)
of the Fourth World Conference on Women 10 years ago in Beijing, China.
The review and appraisal process will take place from February 28 to March
11, 2005 at the United Nations Headquarters in New York City.
the fact that the PFA contemplates Section “J” in Chapter 3, about
Women and Media, the issue is hardly found in the provisional agenda for
the evaluation process. The U.N. Division for the Advancement of Women (DAW)
has also ignored “Women and media” in its web page discussion topics
towards the process.
European Women´s Lobby document for Beijing + 10 recognizes that “women
in the media is one of the objectives that is most neglected by the
European Union.” The same assessment is true of most NGOs in the regions.
Section “J”, adopted for the first time in a UN Conference 10 years
ago, is even more critical today than it was 10 years ago, especially when
considering the advancement of women and their rights in general, which is
the bottom line concern in the Platform for Action.
African activist and communicator, Lynne Muthoni Wanyeki told “Women in
Action”, 2004: “The need for a timely strategy to enhance women’s
development, equality and human rights is critical…because information
plays an important role in building on the successes and failures of women
seeking to involve ourselves in the development and peace processes across
parallel trends have coexisted globally in the issue of women and media.
One is the growing presence of women in the media and the emergence of a
global movement of women in the media and communications that has
mushroomed in the international arena. Women users of Information and
Communications Technologies (ICT) have doubled in the decade according to
Internet statistics. Also
greatly expanding are the numbers of women in community radio and media,
as well as other forms of media, be it magazines, newspapers, commercial
radio and electronic news.
UNESCO's Secretary General
Koichiro stated in 2004 that women make up more than a third of the
world's journalists. “However, despite their increasing presence in all
media, women are still a long way from achieving equality with men in the
example of this problem is evident in one of the countries in the world,
the United States. In statistics
compiled by Sheila Gibbons of the Media Report on Women by the
Communication Research Associates, Inc., Gibbons reported an analysis of
the evening news programs on CBS, ABC and NBC on the percentage of female
protagonists in news stories in 2002, which showed an average of 14%
female protagonists, compared to 86% males.
She also noted that there were no significant differences among the
networks in this trend.
the IV World Conference on Women in Beijing 1995, women have also joined
hands and pens, microphones and computers, voices and ears, to form and
expand networks and media monitoring bodies at every international forum
where the issue is discussed and policies adopted, in order to influence
those agendas. Such is the case of the Women Action initiative in 2000 at
the Beijing + 5 evaluation, the Gender Caucus at the World Summit of the
Information Society (WSIS) in 2003 and the Women’s Media Pool towards
Beijing + 10 in 2005, among others.
Cabrera, an Asian Pacific activist and media practitioner noted that
“across the world, media monitoring initiatives abound. Efforts around
media literacy education or capacity building to empower people to be
critical thinkers and creative producers of non-profit media are likewise
increasing. Communities and non-government organizations are producing
their own magazines, news and video projects. Some are setting up their
own TV and radio stations. Media reform groups are being formed to expose
and oppose commercialization of the media, protect public broadcasting,
and promote community and independent media initiatives” (ISIS, Women in
other coexisting trend is the growing concentration of media in the hands
of less than 10 corporations. For example,
in 2001 the Time Warner-AOL merger brought, under one single owner,
many of the media and entertainment corporations, electronic networks,
etc. “Homogenization that comes with concentration has never been
favorable to women,” says Latin American communicator, Katerina Anfossi
who adds that “women are about diversity.”
decade has also seen the commercialization of information to its outmost.
Ignacio Ramonet, European journalist, shows in his 2004 speech, “Media
and Globalization,” how “the advent of the Internet and electronic
communications is what has allowed globalization to take place, because
these technologies do not transport only messages any longer, but they
the cyberspace superhighway has also become a global shopping center, and
in this dynamic, women have become a type of merchandise to be bought and
Bangkok Communiqué of the U.N. Economic and Social Commission for Asia
Pacific, which serves as the Asian Pacific contribution to the Beijing +10
review process states that there is “…a persisting portrayal of women
and girls as sexual objects and commodities in media and ICTs” (UNESCAP,
September 20, 2004).
addition, mainstream media in the Internet has reproduced the stereotyping
of women that has taken place in conventional media. For a single massive
example, photos of the tragedy of the recent tsunami in the Indian Ocean
show that day after day of coverage, women appeared in Microsoft’s
portal online as the “tear bearers”, rather than the active agents or
social workers who turned their pain into action, when other aid was
nowhere to be seen. These same distorted images of women were true in most
of the traditional mainstream media reporting.
issue that is strong in the agenda of the 49th Session known as
“Beijing + 10” is the negative impact of globalization on women.
Common sense would tell anyone - U.N. and governments included - that in
order to tackle globalization’s negative trends, they would have to
Latin American and Caribbean Economic Commission’s Consensus Declaration
towards Beijing + 10 calls to “… promote access of all women to all
information and communications technologies towards the eradication of
poverty and the promotion of development.” (Section xvi, ECLAC, June
today’s globalized world, media and information and communications
technologies play a defining role in shaping agendas. Furthermore, they
are a big part of the agenda. To be in media is to have a place in the
world; therefore, to leave media out, really implies to “be out of it”!
good way to be relevant is to contribute to place media in the hands of
women themselves - decision-making included - and supporting women’s
media and ICTs, especially community media efforts in counteracting those
this happens, words will have little meaning towards the advancement of
women, no matter how many commitments are made to other sections of the
agenda, such as violence against women, health, political participation,
more information go to: www.womensmediapool.org.