Paraphrasing Virginia
Woolf's essay A room of one's own, Sharon Bhagwan-Rolls, said:
“There is a need to ensure that the necessary resources are
mobilised so that women have the opportunity to write their stories,
have their voices heard and their identities represented,
particularly when it comes to the peace and security sector. Media
content must continue to reach women in their communities, it must
provide in-depth, substantial information that supports and empower
the work of women”

Bhagwan-Rolls, from
Femlink Pacific, was at one of the few events that dealt with
(the only part of the Platform of Action that deals with
media and ICTs) in the Beijing+15 meetings that are going on in New
York till March 12. At the 29th floor of a sky-scraper
near UN headquarters, with an incredible view of Manhattan's sunset,
a team of media and gender activists (coordinated by the World Association of Christian Communication) presented the preliminary
findings of their global report on women in the media.

No doubt, after the
presentation everyone had a clear picture of what was going on in the
media. Numbers spoke for themselves. Some key findings were:

  • 24% of people
    interviewed, heard seen or read about in mainstream broadcast and
    print news are female;

  • Only 16% of all
    stories focus especially on women;

  • Women have achieved
    near parity as givers of popular opinion in news stories; at the
    same time, less than one out of every five experts interviewed is

  • News stories by
    female reporters are almost twice as likely to challenge gender
    stereotypes than stories by male reporters;

  • Women are five times
    as likely as men to be portrayed in their roles as wives, mothers,

The only male panelist was
Sanjay Suri, from Inter Press Service. And he gave the audience a
pretty clear idea of why this is happening: “You can fix the
news before fixing the world. Most of the trouble around the world is
caused by men. And news follows trouble very closely. Trouble is big
He also spoke about citizen journalism and the possible
threats that it can imply to traditional sources: “now the
challenge is to have good quality content, high standards and

Needless to say, many
women from the audience disagreed. On the one hand, one of them said,
if we only see journalism and media as a mirror of reality as opposed
to a producer of reality, things will never change. And Lalaine
Viado, from APC, raised the point that media can be perpetrators of
violence again women:in the Philippines, a newspaper revealed the
identity of the victim, making herself even more vulnerable."

Many of those women talked
about the huge opportunity that social media represents, and how
women all over the word now have the opportunity to tell their
stories using their voices. So the challenge, rather than “quality
and credibility”, is actually putting technology in our agenda, not
only use it but shape it, take part in its development, understand
and influence its political implications. The need and the interest
is already there: ICTs have a huge role to play.

Here is when money
comes into play. Bhagwan-Rolls ended her presentation as follows: “We
are challenging the status quo of the media as producers of print and
electronic media, women operate community radio stations, we are
media correspondents, producers of video documentaries, information
providers, communicators and media activists. So yes, 15 years on,
while there is a need to continue to review and transform media
policy and content, there is also a need to continue to invest in the
development, production and distribution of our own media”.

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