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Overlapping Agendas, Different Priorities
Executive Summary



The Arab region

Latin America and the Caribbean

Europe and North America

Executive Summary

It was not so long ago that thousands of women gathered in Beijing at the UN Fourth World Conference on Women. While women were making history and trying to put their creative input into an international policy-making process, mainstream media was belittling them. Five years later, the Beijing review process brought women together again to take stock of progress on issues adressed in Beijing. This report follows up on that review. Women in Africa, Asia-Pacific, the Arab region, Latin America and the Caribbean, Europe and North America have adressed the situation of women and media in their region: the gains, the gaps, the obstacles and the emerging issues. Not much has changed in the last six years, but some progress has been made.

Six years later, in all the regions of the world, mainstream media still stereotypes and trivializes women's needs and concerns. Women working in media still occupy the lowest positions and the glass ceiling is very real and high. Even though more women are entering schools of journalism and communications, they are more actively dropping out of the profession as well. At the workplace they experience discrimination, sexual harassment and are made to feel like second-class citizens.

Changes in the telecommunications sector have been a mixed blessing for women's media organizations and networks. Women have seen information and communication technologies (ICTs) as a boon, and as an opportunity to live out their dreams. As a technology it is more friendly, democratic and participatory for women than the conventional media are. Unfortunately, technologies cannot change oppressive social, political and economic systems, but, if used correctly and imaginatively, they have the potential for narrowing the gap between the have's and have not's.

"Internet access remains to be the best democratic way to search for information, the cheapest way of communication, one of the most important tools for organizational capacity building. Also, this is sometimes, only the way for pioneers of citizen's activities in our society to overcome the feeling of isolation and only the way to reach community of right spirit. Developing the Information and Communication technology for women give them new challenge to come out from the distress of daily life, make their future more sustainable, because through access to Internet resources women receive various possibilities to express themselves and to argue for changes is needed in our society". (Anna Syomina, Mama86).

Examples of women in different regions of the world, working in and across countries and regions suggests that it is possible to work together. However, the situation must not be glamorized. There are real issues of money, power and control, from which women are not immune.

Genuine issues of language barriers, organizational skills, access to technology training all make for evocative reading in the report. Reports from the North and South tell of similar stories of women facing the media challenge. Engendering media is a major challenge. Working to change the attitudes of media editors and owners is very difficult. Asking for open dialogue and debate on women's needs in media is often taboo and hard to deal with.

Women are concerned about globalization and the control of and access to technologies and airwaves. They feel, almost universally in the report, that media conglomerates and the concentration of media in the hands of a few is not good news for women.

This report shows that agendas overlap, and sometimes priorities differ. A great deal of research has been done internationally, regionally, and in countries to get a picture of the portrayal and position of women in media, and the figures are dismaying. As more and more women across the world get together to strategize how to change the picture, the picture gets harder to change. This is the challenge for the 21st century.