In 1995, when women in Houairou and Beijing worked on what was to become the Beijing Platform for Action Section J: Women and Media, a revolution in communications was just coming over the horizon. The inclusion of communications as a fundamental right of women was a groundbreaking moment, and the importance of this issue has been confirmed by six years of massive changes in the state of media around the world, changes that carry a "huge potential, both negative and positive, for furthering or impeding a more just and equitable gender order."
With the Beijing plus Five review came the opportunity to track these changes, to see how they are playing out across the globe and to find womens place in the new media landscape. The first step was an intensive international research project coordinated by Isis International-Manila on behalf of WomenAction, which had the objective to produce a global alternative report on women and media for the 44th session of the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) at New York, 28 February-17 March 2000. Information and communication media are still a relatively new area of concern for women. The goal of the alternative report was, in part, to present to women and governments a clear picture of major issues regarding women and media in a global perspective: gains since Beijing, gaps in the implementation of the Beijing Platform recommendations, obstacles, new trends, and recommendations. Produced in February 2000, the Alternative Assessment of Women and Media based on NGO Reviews of Section J, Beijing Platform for Action was the major lobbying document for the Women and Media Caucus. Widely distributed at the U.N. during CSW and on the Internet, the Alternative Assessment laid much of the groundwork for the present report. It appears in this book as an appendix.
In the fall of 2000, Centre de documentation sur léducation des adultes et la condition féminine (CDEACF) assumed the coordination of the last of a series of activities led by WomenAction around the Beijing plus Five process, the research project at the origin of this book.
The book has two sections. The first, "Overlapping agendas, different priorities: The Global Alternative Report on Section J of the Beijing Platform for Action," is a follow-up to the initial review of Section J, incorporating new information from the Beijing review and from other regional and global processes to form a more comprehensive review. Building on the experience and the lessons learned by the team that led the initial global report, we have taken an approach that is both different from and complementary to the previous report. The Alternative Assessment was written from a global perspective, as a lobbying document for a U.N. process. This report is also global in scope its sources include reports by women from Argentina, Canada, Kenya, the Philippines, Senegal, South Africa, Tunisia and the United Kingdom but it differs from the Alternative Assessment because it includes a report for each region. In this way, the women of each region have a space to express their own reality in their own voice. We have adapted and shortened the original reports in compiling the global report, but the full versions are available on the WomenAction Web site at http://www.womenaction.org.
This project has provided an opportunity to work more closely with women we came to know through WomenAction activities during Beijing plus Five. In some regions, we were able to cement new relationships by collaborating on the research: in Africa, APC-Africa-women and FEMNet made their expertise and their network of contacts available to the regional coordinator. In other cases, we made the acquaintance of new groups in world regions where we had not previously had strong contacts: in North Africa and the Middle East, we welcomed the Center of Arab Women for Training and Research (Tunisia) and the Arab Media Women Centre (Jordan) into our team.
Discovering new groups and new initiatives in women and media is the essence of the second section, "Making Media Work for Women: Best Practices of Women Worldwide." In order to identify good practices and successful strategies that women in different countries have developed in the areas of outreach, advocacy, media watch, codes and standards, and use of new information and communications technologies, WomenAction coordinating teams around the world sent out questionnaires to women in their region (and sometimes, thanks to Internet, far beyond). More than 40 of womens most striking, innovative and, we hope, replicable media practices comprise this chapter. They range from the Images and Testimonies contest (Latin America) to the "media invasion" strategy of Les Penelopes to the Global Women Media Team. Choosing the examples to include was a difficult task, and while doing so, we learned one of the most precious and encouraging lessons of the making of this book: women everywhere are doing amazing things with media.
The research in this book presents an overview of the issue of women in media around the world. By publishing in English, Spanish and French, we are giving women from different regions access to the knowledge and experiences of their sisters on other continents and in other cultures. As a French-speaking organization in North America, CDEACF has a special concern for making information accessible in many languages. If we could have, we would have published this book in every language known to woman!
We hope the publication of this book will mark the beginning of an even broader outreach among women working in the area of media. It is for this reason that we are publishing the addresses of every group included in the section on Best Practices, of most of the groups mentioned in the Global Alternative Report, as well as the name, the contact person and an e-mail address for every group that has participated in WomenAction to date. We hope that this directory, and a searchable version on the Web, will help women working in various media-related fields to get in touch with other women interested in the same issues.