|Communicating Change: Yet Another Important but Ignored BFPA Item|
|Thursday, 11 June 2009 14:23|
by Bianca Miglioretto, Isis International
Section J of the Beijing Platform for Action (BPfA) places an emphasis on the central means of effecting women's empowerment and gender equality. The media has been crucial for women to communicate their aspirations, struggles, identities and desires. But the market-driven nature of most media seemed to have left behind, especially with the emergence of new information and communications technologies (ICTs).
The internet and its derivate products and services have indeed brought about greater access to information. They have opened up opportunities to enhance individual freedoms and explore new social and economic infrastructure.
Yet new sets of problems likewise emerged, affecting the very exercise of human and cultural rights. With the internet's reach, gender stereotyping and commodification have been done on a more massive scale, encouraging exclusion and discrimination. Video games and other cyber spaces are promoting violent hegemonic masculinities. Other forms of violence against women are also taking place, including cyber-stalking and human trafficking. Children have also become targets of internet pornography.
As Anita Gurumurthy, executive director of IT for Change (ITfC) remarked, “Women need to understand the politics of technology, develop gendered perspectives on key issues and engage directly with these [technical governance] fora. ... Within such an understanding, a new framework for action that addresses the challenges of gender equality and maximises the new opportunities for women's empowerment must be built.”
She added that feminist movements and the UN gender structures need to reinvent their frameworks on violence against women (VAW) in order to take into account the internet as a space that facilitates VAW. Existing standards set by the North may not be appropriate for Asian sex work that is often in the context of survival or even for the problem of trafficking of women and children.
Aside from the awareness on such issues, another challenge lies on women's access to media tools which are more strategic and appropriate for them. Isis International's five-coutry study on the communication tools used by grassroots women, People's Communication for Development (PC4D) research clearly showed that radio, film and popular theater are still the most accessible and effective communication tools for grassroots women. Therefore, empowering media strategies need to include support to community media with women's active participation and ownership.