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International conference on Media and Women’s rights – round two

A common theme from yesterday was the recurrent discussions about the patriarchal systems and how it’s counteracting the women’s rights movement and the implementation of UNSCR 1325. One of the consequences of patriarchy is that women are pushed back to be caretakers, victims or sexual objects and thus cannot use their professional skills. The Swedish journalist and participant Bitte Hammargren, with great experience from Palestine and Iraqi Kurdistan, gave a much appreciated statement; “If you have wishes in your life, you have to go for it!”This is one reason why media must promote strong women in their reporting – it inspires feminist all over the world to keep fighting for change.

After this powerful beginning, it was time for Martina Lindberg from the Swedish Defence University to tell us about the Swedish defence unit. It is true that Sweden is one of the most equal countries in the world, but we are still far from equal in gender representation. Resolution 1325 is an effective tool to change this since it applies a wider security perspective and offers an explanation that sustainable peace and inclusive societies cannot be achieved without involving the whole population. In order for the resolution to be used in an effective way, it is necessary to first define the word “gender” and thus ensure that everyone inside an organization is working towards the same goal. And this is where gender mainstreaming, which means working with a gender analysis and security from a women’s perspective, becomes useful. After a very educational session, Martina finished with an optimistic view; “We have seen small changes, but the future holds for bigger ones”.

The second presentation of the day came from MSB (Swedish Civil Contingencies Agency). The overall goal of MSB, working to prevent and resolve crises, is that women and men shall have equal power to shape society and their own lives. In order to fulfil this, MSB tries to adjust all their internal and external work after a human rights perspective. The agency strives to spot and change market structures and standards instead of trying to get individuals to fit into the template. For example, it does matter how and what is being said and therefore we have to create awareness of what gender stereotypical images are causing. The Iraqi delegation compared the work of MSB to their own context. They are also working with a gender analysis but meet a bigger resistance since some authorities do not always accept proposals coming from women.

Our third presentation came from Sholeh Irani, journalist at the Swedish newspaper Feministiskt Perspektiv. Sholeh told us that the majority of interviewed people in media are men, especially when it comes to political matters, despite the fact that women make up 50 % of the Swedish politicians. When women do appear in media, it relates to their personal experiences, often where she is a victim. The lives and experiences of women still have problems reaching the news. This is why we need a newspaper with a feminist perspective, not only on “women’s issues” but in each and every story. “Making news is about making choices. We make women as social actors, not passive and submissive”, Sholeh said. Afterwards, we all discussed the importance of representation in the media.

In the afternoon we listened to a most inspiring speech by Eva Zetterberg, president of Operation 1325. She explained the current gender equality situation in Sweden which can be summarized in the following quote: “There is a lack of implementation of UNSCR 1325 but we do have effective tools to work with: Agenda 2030, SDGs and a feminist foreign policy”. She finished with some life advice for women – we all should support and empower each other, switch roles and share experiences, never forget about our families or the people that loves us, and last but not least continue with our work and never give up!

Finally, it was time for presentations by the Palestinian and the Lebanese delegation. TAM, Women, Media and Development from Palestine is working towards the vision of a free, democratic state with equal rights for men and women. For this objective, they use media to improve the image of Palestinian women and increase participation of women in public spheres. TAM dedicates a lot of their work to enhance the individual human being by recognizing their needs. They offer media trainings for women and other minorities and teach them how to use the camera for communication. “I have been out of prison physically for 13 years, but only today, after this media training, I am mentally free”. This really captures the role of media in promoting women’s rights to live their lives without any obstacles.

The organization MAP, Media Association for Peace, from Lebanon works with the concept of peace journalism. This means changing what and how to report on news. It is obvious that media exclude and discriminate against women and therefore, the mission of MAP is to promote peace journalism which offers a solution to the gender imbalance. By making women visible in conflict reporting, to portray women as actors, interview them on all issues, include civil society in media reporting, show more than just two sides of the conflict and cover initiatives to a peaceful conflict resolution – media can contribute to ending conflicts and making women a part of this process. 

Media really has a strong impact in giving power to women in peace processes and this is something we need to make use of.