Report of on-line discussion on Women and Media
(Section J, Beijing Platform for Action), held November 8- December 17 1999.
WomenAction 2000 | Live @ the UNGASS!


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This report is also available in Spanish and French

I. Introduction

The Women and Media on-line discussion was a project of WomenWatch and WomenAction 2000. WomenWatch is a UN initiative to measure progress and obstacles since the Fourth World Conference on Women (FWCW) held in 1995. Women Action is a network of national, regional and international organizations focusing on Women and Media or Section J of the Beijing Platform for Action (BPFA).

WomenAction 2000 designed, moderated, and facilitated the on-line discussion from November 8- December 17, 1999. (See Appendix A for individuals involved in this). Altogether 113 women and 1 man from 42 countries posted 233 messages to the list (See Appendix B for list of country participation). Of these 40 were from the US and Canada, 28 from Europe, 24 from the Asia Pacific region, 14 from Africa and 7 from Latin America.

The language of the discussion was English, with the weekly themes and summaries translated into French and Spanish. This may explain the smaller participation from Latin America. Participants recommended that future consultations of this kind should be multilingual to broaden participation. USA and Canada have higher connectivity to Internet and being part of electronic discussions is more common than other parts of the world. And, from Africa and Asia, despite the comparatively low connectivity rates, participation was good. In 1995, women and media or Section J, was an area of concern in the BPFA, reflecting a growing recognition that media and communication are key for women's equality. Section J identified two key areas where action was needed. These areas were used as a framework for the on-line discussion agenda. More specifically: 1) To increase the participation and access of women to expression and decision-making in and through the media and new technologies of communication. 2) Promote a balanced and non-stereotyped portrayal of women in the media. Over six weeks, the discussion focused on whether the objectives of the BPFA regarding women and media had been realized and what still needed to be done. The facilitators designed the discussion around the themes of women and the information society: information and communication technologies (ICTs); how women are using new communication technologies; the portrayal of women in the media; the position of women in the media; women's networks and media, and freedom of expression and social responsibility of the media (see Appendix C for questions in each week’s theme).

The report highlights the key trends and debates, new and emerging issues, good practices, ongoing obstacles and recommendations.

This report will be disseminated widely in preparation of the CSW (Commission on the Status of Women) in March 2000 in New York at the UN headquarters as well as the June Special Session of the General Assembly.

II. Key trends and debates

The key trends and debates could be framed around the good and bad news. Responses from participants indicated that while not

much had changed in women's situation in relation to the media, there are subtle changes. The central issues and problems outlined in Section J of the BPFA are ongoing concerns that continue to be relevant.

Most participants agreed that very little has changed in the portrayal of women in media since 1995, whether in advertising or news media. Negative, stereotyped, inaccurate and violent images of women are pervasive. Some groups of women are simply invisible, such as those from minority populations. Women are described in terms of appearance rather than abilities. Moreover, the increased commercialisation of every medium has intensified the visibility of negative images, from billboards to television to newspaper. New media are perpetuating and accentuating much that is negative about the portrayal of women, notably computer games and music videos.

This has happened despite growing numbers of women in business, of women parliamentarians and journalists. However, women are still scarce in decision-making media positions.

There are some notable exceptions to a generally negative situation and participants did see some changes taking place, often as a result of advocacy. Women’s organisations and media monitoring groups have had an active role to play in promoting change. A wide variety of women's media initiatives are making a positive impact. Participants agreed that the beginnings of change have also come from education and positive role models. There have been a few worthy governmental initiatives, though these are still too scarce. The importance of publicly confronting negative portrayals was strongly demonstrated during the dialogue. Training of journalists and other media makers was also supported.

The most evident change on the communication scene in these five years has been the emergence of the Internet as a space where women can not only access information but also produce and disseminate their own information, and network. A significant part of the discussion was dedicated to exploring the possibilities, challenges and obstacles for women with relation to information and communication technologies (ICTs).

While there is great enthusiasm for the possibilities ICTs offer for women in all parts of the world, it was pointed out that they also present dangers, such as deeper exclusion for those who do not have access, or greater interference in personal liberty ("high-tech snooping systems"). Concern was also expressed that the changes are taking place so fast that there is not enough time to grasp their implications and respond with adequate policy measures.

A debate arose in the working group on the relevance of new technologies for this review process on media and particularly for women in the South, where access to ICTs is often minimal; but in general there was consensus that it is not an either or situation but that different media forms are complementary and that the Internet is not and should not be a technology just for the well-to-do and the North.

Ammu Joseph, journalist, media researcher and analyst from India writes that technologies also include other innovations in communications technology, such as those "that make audio-visual media such as radio and television not only more accessible and useful to the disadvantaged majority in the population, including and especially women, but also more decentralised and participatory."

Concern was expressed by several participants with regard to the tendency towards media concentration, which was seen as a threat to women's freedom of expression and to their right to pluralistic information sources.

"Communication systems have become one of the main centres of economic power and large media corporations have a disproportionate sway over public opinion and the political life of our countries... The introduction of ICTs has exacerbated these tendencies, with mergers between different sectors of the communication economy creating a greater concentration of power. As citizens, women have virtually no say in how this new configuration of the communication scene is taking place."
Irene León, ALAI,

III. New and emerging issues

Knowledge is a key issue raised by several participants. In the information age, women face the challenge of developing and systematizing their own knowledge, but also of ensuring that it is employed in their benefit. As Cynthia Gehrie notes, " We women have always shared our knowledge. But we have almost never shared in its 'development'. In fact, we watch silenced as our knowledge is developed in contrary lines for contrary purposes."

Josephine Sutton, of Womenspace, Canada notes that even in Canada, where the government is developing an initiative to connect all public libraries and schools connected to the Internet, there is no specfic policy towards women in this area, with the result that: "Our society is rapidly being divided into information haves and have nots - with women, particularly immigrant women, visible minority women, women with disabilities, women in poverty and older women being left out. We believe that the present federal government Internet strategy is actually generating inequality."

Frieda Werden of Women's International News Gathering Service, points to a new development that looks promising for women: " Micro radio transmitters can be small enough to fit into a purse... women in particular have a very good case we can make that established media in no way begins to meet the needs of women to communicate our issues, and that we can't seem to raise enough money to start and run licensed stations or our own here in the US."

IV. Good practices

Over the last four years, many new and exciting initiatives have been initiated in different parts of the world, which could be replicated by individuals and organisations in other places. These are as diverse as practices on ICTs and change, effect of position on portrayal, awareness and gender sensitisation, monitoring, awards and recognition, media policy, networking, bridging technology gaps as well as brave new initiatives. ICTs and change In France, the group Les Penelopes has "invaded the Internet" by exploiting the horizontal and transversal media concept, and in that sense is radically different. They have developed an interactive TV programme "Cyberfemmes" an online discussion with image and text to elaborate on the context. Joelle Palmieri of Les Penelopes says, "Internet has allowed us to create our own channel of media…we are not dependant on a political entity or economic power to be able to emit."

ICTs can be used creatively to influence public policy. The Women’s AdHoc Coalition in Croatia created a website to monitor and influence the 1999 elections, reports Kristina Mihalec

In Canada, Sharon Hackett writes that the Groupe Maman was able, in less than 24 hours, to use its list to set up an urgent fax campaign that had an immediate concentrated impact on public policy -- a proposed amendment to the law regulating practice of midwives was defeated.

In Argentina, Daphne Plou shares that Women for Equal Rights have created a web page with a database on women in politics. It is a good way to make women politicians visible to women in Argentina.

Effect of position on portrayal

In Argentina, more women have graduated in communications, and are working in mainstream media, print, electronic, TV and radio. Daphne Plou says, "Before the 90´s, seldom was a woman’s by-line seen on an article on international affairs, politics or economic issues. Now it is routine, as women have the confidence to analyse and give opinions on issues which were once considered male domain." Some women journalists are in decision making positions in large newspapers, and in production of TV and radio news and information services and programmes. Awareness and gender sensitisation In Sri Lanka there have been efforts to work with the media on gender sensitisation.

In China, in March of 1996, women journalists in Beijing built a network to monitor portrayal of women, and advocate women’s participation in media. They issued proposals to the press to portray women in a positive way, and to eliminate conscious or unconscious discrimination against women in media. The network, affiliated to a formal NGO called Capital Woman Journalists Association, is conducting surveys on news coverage of women in mainstream media, as well as research in both women’s alternative and mainstream media.

A telephone hot line was started in 1997 to encourage public participation in media watch; it joined debates on TV, radio programs, and magazines to further discuss the image of women in the Chinese media. Debates in China’s national daily Women’s News were held on media’s treatment of women.

Feng Yuan writes, "To deal with the Chinese lack of awareness of gender inequities among officials and ordinary people, and fear of feminism, gender training workshops were held. Since 1998, training for network members, as well as other groups, such as minority women journalists, journalists in other provinces, editors and writers for women’s magazines."

Monitoring In Argentina media monitoring by women’s groups has assisted in making journalists, editors and media owners aware of the existing imbalance. The report of the 1995 World Media Monitoring Day was circulated to major media and university professors. It also served as a good resource for women’s organisations and researchers and professors, to analyse gender issues with their students. In South Africa The Commission on Gender Equality and Women’s net organised a media-worker training on using the Internet to research gender issues. The goal of the small workshop was to raise awareness about gender issues. In 1995, MediaWatch Canada organised a Global Media Monitoring Project, to look at issues of portrayal and position of women in the media. Over 15,000 news stories on TV, radio and in newspapers by hundreds of volunteers in 71 countries. This will be repeated in the year 2000, and over 85 countries are expected to take part. Consistent monitoring and sharing the results can result in more awareness and eventually, change. The Zambia Association For Research and Development (ZARD) and the Media Women's Association (ZAMWA) have developed training programmes in gender awareness for media personnel. Awards and recognition In Argentina, the government of the City of Buenos Aires, in 1999 initiated an award for non-sexist advertising. The "Lola Mora Award" was created to honour of great sculptress who lived in Buenos Aires at the end of last century. Also, in an attempt to seek a more constructive approach, UNIFEM sponsored an annual award for non-sexist publicity in the Iberoamerican Festival of Publicity. More than 5,000 TV and radio commercials and graphic publicity participated. As a result, a good dialogue has started with owners of publicity agencies and those in charge of thinking out and creating the commercials. Daphne Sabanes

Northern Europe, believing that audio-visual materials are a good tool to motivate media professionals to pay attention to gender issues, five public broadcast organisations co-operated to produce a kit for the training of programme makers and media professionals. Their motto: "Screening gender is good business."

Media policy

As a result of the discussion in Beijing on the importance of media policy, several countries have undertaken initiatives.

For example, AS a result of As the Canadian gender and media policy consists of enforced self-regulation, operating as a partnership between government, media industry and NGOs. It requires programming to be of a "high standard". It complements the Canadian charter of Rights and Freedoms. At one point, broadcasters distanced themselves from a popular chatshow, which used sexist language and violent sexual imagery involving women, after the CBSC (Canadian Broadcasting Standards Council) ruled that, the show had a "fundamentally sexist disposition." In the Caribbean island of Jamaica, at a conference organised by the WACC (World Association of Christian Communicators), the Jamaican Broadcasting Commission (JBC) promised to examine the Kingston Declaration and policy guidelines closely. They also committed themselves to invite a representative from the Canadian Broadcast Standards Council to discuss specific guidelines for Jamaican broadcasters with them. The JBC committed itself to becoming the first Anglophone Caribbean country 'to end gender-silencing in the media'. In the Asia Pacific region there is a discussion on the need to develop international codes of conduct for gender sensitive reporting, with minimum standards to be observed by media. The codes would be self-regulated and guided by progressive values of gender justice, preservation of human rights, respect for diversity of cultural expression, sexuality and lifestyle. The campaign in the region is being spearheaded by Isis International-Manila Networking Networking is a major activity for women. Women’s networking has grown rapidly with the access to electronic communication. The Gender in Africa Information Network (GAIN) provides "a forum to ask questions and receive answers in a supportive electronic environment". News, information -- on new publications, solidarity campaigns can be advertised and support offered faster than ever before. For this to be sustainable, Jennifer Radloff says, "A solid and committed secretariat or institutional base is needed to support the day-to-day needs."

Another example from Africa illustrates the relevance of networking for NGO media outreach. In Zambia, the umbrella body of Women’s NGOs anchors an NGO media network, which was formed to maximise efficiency and impact of their work as well as other like minded organisations. Ing’utu Mutembo says that there has been a tremendous improvement, and other forms of media, such as drama, advertisements etc, are slowing moving away form portraying conservative gender role distinctions.

Bridging technology gaps

Not everyone does or can have access to the Internet. However, those that do can provide a valuable service in bridging technological gaps.

The Baha’i Vocational Institute for Rural Women" in India shares how they have dealt with distribution of a newsletter in remote Dhar and Jabhua districts in the state of Bihar. Every month a core of volunteers are recruited, and on weekly market days distribute newsletters to friends and women they meet in the market. "The biggest challenge in the area of development and media is the effective dissemination of information to people who are outside the modern advanced system of communication."

The Center for Social Research in Malawi wrote, "I have informed The Malawi Media Women Association Executive about this discussion and they are very interested in participating in all the six weeks. However they do not have access to e mail. I will liase with them in the six week or weeks that are now left, and pass on any information they contribute to this discussion."

ICTs have also enabled organisations to repackage. Anne Walker of the International Women’s Tribune Centre (IWTC), USA says, "Over the years, IWTC has emphasised the importance of making appropriate and relevant information available – through translation, cut-and-[paste newsletters, posters, brochures, story boards, flip charts, role plays, street drama, discussion groups."

Brave new initiatives In Zambia, while around the year, women may be behind the scenes only, on Women's Day, ZNBC (Zambia National Broadcasting Corporation) and other media organisations such as Zambia Information Service, the Dailies and Zambia News Agency allow women to run the station and other services for the day. This gives the female technical staff some visibility, as they are rarely seen. In Cuba, the Federation of Cuban Women, with other groups has successfully managed to get two TV-serials broadcasted from 1995 to 1999. "The Stars Are Telling You" (Te lo Cuentan las Estrellas") featuring women in social activity, sports, research, culture, and "Our Glance" (Nuestra Mirada) which covered women in sports, sciences, and other fields.

In Argentina, Daphne Sabanes says that community radio station members of the Argentine Forum of Community Radio Stations (FARCO) have included programs on women’s concerns, and also had programmes produced and conducted by women with a gender perspective. This Forum has organised workshops to train their members on issues of communication and gender.

In Croatia, in 1998 for the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence, a song and video was made, with two young female rappers. The song got great media coverage and publicity, and was a success. It tackled difficult issues in an upbeat and entertaining way. For 1999 they decided on a jazz song. In developing the story line, the organisers asked men what they thought a powerful woman would look like. The men could imagine only an "amazon". Since it was election time, it was decided to make a video with a female president and ministers, making changes in policies that effect women. In Pakistan, Moneeza Hashmi says that TV networks, in co-ordination with UNDP are introducing gender sensitive training programs for media professionals in broadcasting. And, for the first time in the history of the state network PTV (Pakistan TV) there is a daily hour long program for women, which includes short segments focussing on women’s problems, handicaps, hopes and achievements.

V. Ongoing obstacles

Participants in the discussion listed various obstacles, some continuing from the past and some new ones. The reality of media, systemic challenges, training, resources, language, access and control, and lack of knowledge and psychological barriers. Many of the ongoing obstacles are linked to the status of women in society at large. Media Reality As much of the women and media organising is done by women outside mainstream media, those inside have a view that these efforts are not successful.

Indian NGOs have been involved in monitoring, advocacy and training programmes. But their effectiveness, especially on advocacy and training, is limited, particularly because media professionals (not to mention owners and managers) tend not to take them seriously. "Many of their efforts do not reflect sufficient awareness of the realities of the media world, based on the idealistic premise that the media must be socially responsible (which, unfortunately, media professionals and, more importantly, media owners/managers, do not accept."
Ammu Joseph


Systemic challenges

In many countries where participants wrote in from, issues agreed to in Section J are not that easy to put into action. They require a radical transformation of the systems in place.

For example, concepts such as increasing women's participation or contribution, are often seen by the public as ‘domination, control, power hungry or plain silly’. Calls by women for greater participation and positive portrayal are trivialised in policy formation.

"Sometimes explaining to people about what sexism and stereotypes are, how they are harmful, and what policies on such issues can achieve seems too abstract," says Kristina Mihalec, Croatia

Despite women media professionals being economically active, they are still expected to take the main responsibility of maintaining the home and family.

A 1995 survey by the International Women’s Media Foundation, USA at the Beijing conference showed that the majority of women journalists identified "balancing work and family" as the number one obstacle encountered. Women say they had to work long hours to "prove themselves worthy" of a management position.

In Romania in 1999, women told about how difficult it is to work, raise a family, and pay the bills.

And a heavy dose of discrimination still continues as many popularly believe that ICTs are still a male purview.

Mary P. Wood, USA points out that there is a very real glass ceiling. A male applicant is slightly more likely to get the IS/IT (Information science/ information technology) job than a female applicant. Many women, however, hold a perception that this problem is much, much worse than it is. "The core problem, from where I see it, goes back to the roots of things mechanical being a male domain." she says.

Not only are there few women at the top, but often when they do get there, they struggle between staying in power and making way for other women. And, by and large, it seems that media managers and gatekeepers still believe that women can only do certain stories and be interested in certain topics.

The lack of role models was the second biggest concern to women journalists. Because of the low numbers of women in top positions, some feel isolated or discouraged. And sometimes there is no hand reaching back to help the newcomers up the ladder. In Manila in 1998 at a gathering of Asian journalists it was said that some women who make it to the top simply "close the door" to other women on the rise.

In the US journalists say that ‘mentoring’(a process by which senior people in the profession take younger people under their wing) isn't encouraged, and discrimination and harassment still occurs. Women are still being relegated to stories having to do with personal appearance, home making, and childcare. For example, the daily Chicago Tribune's section for women's news is exactly the same as those in the fifties. The same is true for the new Women2Women (CBS) billed as a woman's news show.

Part of the problem is men in management and advertiser demands, but an equal part is that women won’t take the risk of presenting alternates -- either article ideas or their goals. Even men who are open to concerns of women are often oblivious as it does not impact their lives as much.

Sandy Pfister of the US suggests that unless women are bold and assertive, which would improve the image of women in the media, promotions as well as stories are unlikely. "Or, women could go off and start their own services, which is what many have done. As entrenched corporate structures do not favour women's methods of communication or managing, this may be a good solution in some cases. In the US women owned businesses now employ more people than the Fortune 400, and are creating more new jobs than any other segment of society. Women in media might be wise to resort to the same techniques rather than try to change the existing structure."

Training, resources and language

Many participants mentioned access, training, resources and language as obstacles. While these are more acute in the South, they affect the poorer and minority sections in the North.

"Besides cost, the biggest barrier in accessing information technology is language." Women In Need

Access and control

While some participants suggested that access to information and technology was a problem, others talked about policies which encouraged concentration of communication and information in certain areas.

Chat Garcia, of Isis International-Manila, says public policy predominantly supports "the concentration of the information and communications industries towards private enterprise. Today only a handful of firms decide on the mix of information, expression and debate made available through major media networks to large a portion of the world’s population."

In the US, Dorothy Kidd points out how most of the digital ‘broadband’ highway is in the business districts of major urban centres. Huge areas of the country, especially the mid-west, and the poorer working class communities outside of central business districts, already have limited access to the new ‘broadband networks."

This "digital divide" will only increase as these major "broadband" highways will be operated as corporate businesses, with the ability to restrict access, or set the conditions of access for everyone involved. This restriction will not only operate at the toll gates, i.e. getting on to the Internet. But because of the monopolization going on, it will occur at the level of browsers and search engines too, restricting content or information itself.

Awatef Ketiti, Tunisian journalist living in Spain, says women who don’t have access to technology are "systematically excluded from the information circuit internationally and are marginalised . Many women are ignorant of new communications technologies and their lack of access to this technology. "If ... mechanization and rationalization did not alter the power relationship between dominant and dominated, there is no indication that the emergent information society will change things either. The losers are just computer-controlled losers."

Lack of knowledge and psychological barriers

But is it only lack of access? If women were to have access to the technology, would things be different?

Journalist Montse Boix from Spain says that women who could have access to the ICTs, but unconsciously or consciously reject its use because of technophobia, little or no knowledge of the use of the PC, and strategic use of the ICTs, and problems of language.

Sophie Latulippe suggests that there are two important psychological barriers to women’s access to technology -- lack of information about what benefits can be gained through the access of technologies, and lack of self-confidence with regard to the learning these technologies.

However, Kristina Mihalec says that is incorrect to say women fear this technology. In the case of Croatia, she says women are misinformed and uneducated, there is a lack resources, finances and the political-social climate of post war patriarchy.

VI. Recommendations

The recommendations emerging from the discussion focused on policy initiatives, ICT development, education and training, dissemination, and monitoring and research.


  • The UN should launch a broad debate on communication and democracy, involving the active participation of women, and for this purpose, convene a World Conference on Communication.
  • The UN, media and civil society organizations should promote the formulation and adoption of global ethical frameworks, based on gender equality, in all communicational products, programs and representations.
  • The UN should include women's right to communicate as one of its priorities in the agenda for the 21st century, as a contribution to the aim of constructing democracies based on pluralism and a culture of peace.
  • Donor agencies must develop long-range strategies for supporting greater connectivity for women and the direct implications of access for democratic governance, networking, economic opportunities, etc. with media as an important and essential tool for the basis of this work.
  • Voluntary or legislated advertising standards should be instituted for billboards and other advertisements.
  • Action should be taken not only around negative portrayal of women in conventional media, but in electronic and other new media such as the Internet and video games.
  • Governments should promote positive discrimination for women in access to ICTs, including training, educational and economic support.
  • Women’s organisations should lobby and advocate at various levels within the ICT sector and government to ensure that ICT gender policies are representative of the diverse needs of women.

ICT Development

  • Priority and resources should be assigned to development of and women’s access to the following technological tools. More specifically,
  • Affordable computer hardware, laptops, that do not require mains electricity (e.g. wind-up or solar), so that women can communicate from locations without electricity.
  • User-friendly free software with low-tech hardware requirements, for women's ICT access in areas and social groups with scant technological resources; particularly for audio-visual content and for non-Latin alphabet languages.
  • Gender-sensitive multi-language translation software (including non-Latin alphabet languages) adapted to social issues such that women can participate equally in international exchanges and access information in their own language.
  • Search engines and information systems focusing on gender issues.
  • Opportunities should be provided and promoted for women to merge newer technologies with other technologies in which they have experience (such as radio and video), as well as indigenous and traditional forms of communication (such as music, theatre, etc.)
  • Women’s use of new technologies, such as micro radio transmitters, community access television or mobile tele-centres make audio and visual media more accessible and participatory should be promoted.

Education and training

  • National education systems and other players in the field of education should:
  • Increase and expand the gender sensitisation of individuals and institutions from an early age, beginning with schools.
  • Take measures to show young women and girls that technology is not beyond their grasp. Present women in technology roles as something normal.
  • Develop training programmes for women’s organisations in computing, information management and strategies for dissemination through the media, on the Internet or using other new and conventional technologies.
  • Provide training to journalism students and journalists to better understand issues of concern to women, as well as issues related to gender and the media.


  • Creation and dissemination of information on women needs to be supported. For example:
  • Initiatives that create women and gender-sensitive content for the Internet.
  • Regular information to media groups and other civil society organisations on issues related to women and media.
  • Alternative media could pool resources, at least in the area of distribution/dissemination, so as to reach wider audiences.
  • Information should be translated, reproduced and repackaged using a variety of media, using electronic communications, newsletters, radio, popular theatre, etc.
  • Information relevant to the needs of rural women in local languages, via radio, audio visual and popular media.
  • Networks or organisations of professional translators could be built to provide free or low-cost translation services to women’s organisations.
  • Donors should provide increased and sustained support for women’s media productions.

Monitoring and research

  • Regular and on-going media monitoring should be undertaken for gender bias/sensitivity and results shared with policymakers in media and society. Information should be shared on successful experiences and opportunities provided to replicate them.
  • Donors should give increased and sustained support for on-going research and studies on the portrayal of women in the media.
  • A status report could be undertake with UNESCO on progress on issues raised in the 1995 study on women and the media, including as an added indicator, the linkages between the economic model and media portrayal of women.

Appendix A

Advisory Board: Anne Walker, Jo Sutton, Ruth Ochieng, Chat Garcia Ramilo, Luz Maria Martinez, Dafne Plou, RIAW, Korea

Moderators: Karen Banks and Jill Small

Facilitators: Anita Anand and Sally Burch


Appendix B

Participation by Country









United Kingdom








South Africa












Trinidad & Tobago




















Czech Republic




















New Zealand










Sri Lanka







5 (unable to ascertain but can assume in most cases USA)


UN Regions

ECE (Europe)


(Canada and USA


ESCAP (Asia and Pacific)


ECA (Africa)


ECLA (Latin America)



Appendix C Themes and questions for discussions

Week I: Theme ~ Women and the information society: information and communication technologies (ICTs)

One of the most striking new tendencies in the communication field is the widespread introduction of new information and communication technologies (ICTs). In the four years since the Beijing World Conference, the changes are remarkable; those to come may transform media as we know it beyond recognition.

Since the Beijing World Conference, it has become widely accepted that in today's so-called information society, ICTs are crucial for development, and those who are unable to access and use them will suffer further marginalization. This poses a serious challenge to women, who are frequently left aside from new technological developments.

1. In what ways can women be empowered by enhancing their skills, knowledge and access to information technology? What efforts have been made to this effect? Have women been encouraged and enabled to gain access to the new technologies and to training in their use, and in dealing with information?

2. Is there evidence that lack of access is leading to further marginalization for women?

3. Have women been involved in decision-making regarding the development and implementation of ICTs and the Internet? Have proposals been put forward for introducing a gender focus in ICT and Internet development?

4. Are there examples of the above that can be cited and/or used as models?

Week 2:Theme ~ How women are using new communication technologies to promote gender equality

Section J of the Beijing Platform for Action urges that women should be trained in and encouraged to use new technologies, with specific reference to disseminating information, producing information for the mass media and strengthening women's participation in democracy.

1. What strategies have women's organizations developed to use communication systems, including new technologies, as a means of strengthening women's participation in democratic processes?

2. How are women using the Internet to disseminate information directly or to the mass media?

3. Are women taking advantage of ICTs to increase their media presence and visibility? 4. Can the Internet be employed effectively to combat negative portrayals of women?

5. Are there examples we can cite and use as models?

6. What steps have governments and multilateral agencies taken to encourage such activities?


Week 3:Theme ~ Portrayal of women in media

Since the first World Conferences on Women in 1975, and at subsequent world conferences, official documents have pointed out that there are two important ways media is linked to women and their status in society: portrayal and position of women in media.

A. The Beijing Platform for Action (BFA) spelt out problems and

recommendations on media policy, portrayal and position of women. Research and anecdotal evidence suggests that women's portrayal is by and large about their role in the home. Women's identity, ambition, self worth are all linked to spouses and children. Rarely are women shown as individuals, or persons of worth. Women leaders, artists, activists, economists and politicians find little space in media and when they do, their personal lives, cosmetic attributes and family concerns are highlighted. And, they are often presented as victims. Women don't make news, unless they are movie stars, bandits and beauty queens.

But there has been some progress in the last four years. Media has given more space to women.

1. Has the portrayal of women in print and electronic, visual and audio changed? If yes, how? If no, why not? Have there been efforts to change it which have been successful? Can some examples be cited?

B. The BFPA calls for deliberate efforts to work with mainstream media -- owners, managers, editors -- basing advocacy on regular monitoring of media and gender sensitization sessions.

1. Have there been advocacy efforts to monitor and work with media, gender-sensitive training for media professionals, media owners and managers? Are there some examples that could serve as models?


C. The BFPA has called upon governments and other actors to promote an active and visible policy of mainstreaming a gender perspective in policies and programs.

1. Have there been initiatives on gender mainstreaming in policies and programs by governments and other actors? What new actions are required by governments, UN agencies, media, NGOs and other entities to ensure a more balanced portrayal of women in the media?

Week 4: Theme ~ Position of women in media
A. Most women working in media are in low paying positions with little responsibility, and access to power. Studies show senior women drop out when the double load of home and work are too much to juggle. Many of the same women also say that they are dissatisfied and feel unchallenged in the workplace, which is a male defined and dominated space.

Today, in most of the world, 50 percent of entrants in communications schools are women, and more women make a career in communications. et, few are in decision-making positions or serve on governing boards and bodies that influence media policy.

1. Has there been change in media as women's participation has increased? If yes, how did this happen? If not, why not?

2. Do women face new obstacles in reaching decision -making positions? Have the few women in such positions been able to effect a change in the portrayal of women in media? If yes, how has this happened. If not, why, and what could be done to make this happen?

3. As media change with the times, what mechanisms would women want to see put in place to influence the development of emerging issues in this realm? And what proposals are women putting forward to shape the media of the future and make them more gender-sensitive?

B. The Beijing Platform for Action (PA) calls upon governments and other stakeholders (research groups, women's organizations, donor agencies) to mainstream a gender perspective in policies and programs.

1. Have governments and other stakeholders made efforts to mainstream a gender perspective in policies and programs? Are there examples that could be cited which could serve as ideas and models?

C. The BPA recognizes that many women and women's organizations generate valuable information from outside the mass media. If used as information sources, they could contribute to including women's perspectives in the mainstream media.

1. Have there been efforts to initiate educational and training programs for women to produce information for the mass media, either through conventional media or using new technologies of communication, cybernetics space and satellite? Any examples?

Week 5: Theme ~ Women's media and networks
The Beijing Platform for Action underlines the importance of women's media and networks for promoting debate and disseminating information. Also as a means of recognizing the specific needs of women in media, and facilitating their increased participation in communication. A. Women's alternative media is sometimes criticized as "preaching to the converted", but it can play an important role in building movements and supporting advocacy work. There are also some important women's initiatives that disseminate gender focused content in the mass media. 1. How are these initiatives improving women's access to information and the means of communication? 2. How are they contributing to promoting debate and building initiatives for gender equality?

3. What initiatives exist of indigenous women and other cultural/ethnic groups to create and sustain their own media?

4. Have such initiatives been encouraged and supported by governments and multilateral organizations?

5. What strategies and support mechanisms are needed to solidify and strengthen networks that are in danger of disappearing through lack of funding support?

B. Women's networks have been fundamental for women from around the world to be able to make their voices heard in international forums such as the present Beijing+5 year revision. Information flow is the sap that keeps networks alive and active.

1. What communication strategies have such networks developed to promote debate, share information, build advocacy initiatives, etc. How have hey benefited from ICTs?

2. What initiatives exist in translation and repackaging to women locally so that they can participate more fully in global and regional debates around development issues?

3. Has funding and technical assistance been available for such initiatives?

C. Networks of women in communication (professionals, researchers, pressure groups and others) can provide important mutual support for women to gain recognition for their specific needs in and contributions to communication, and for advocacy in this field.

1. What initiatives exist at this level?

2. What have they achieved and how are they helping women to increase their participation in communication processes?


Week 6: Theme ~ Freedom of expression and social responsibility of the media
A. There is an increasing consolidation of large national and

transnational media corporations and fusion of telecommunications and media, backed by powerful economic interests. This often drives out or subsumes local media. National or international regulations do not apply to such collaborations. But, there is discussion whether these developments could be regulated by the state or be self-regulatory. On the other hand, developments in electronic (radio and video) media suggest that local and decentralized forms of programming are alive and thriving. And many of these have women as major protagonists.

1. How does consolidation affect the social responsibility of the media, and what is the impact on women's freedom of expression and access to pluralistic information sources?

2. 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 owned media forms?

3. Does commercialization of media and the spread of e-commerce on the Internet necessarily mean women will be treated mainly as consumers?

4. Have women participated in the development of professional guidelines, codes of conduct, or other appropriate self-regulatory mechanisms to promote balanced and non-stereotyped portrayals of women by the media? Are there examples that could be cited?

5. Have professional guidelines and/or codes of conduct addressing portrayal of women in violent, degrading or pornographic materials, including advertising been formulated? Any examples?



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