In Lebanon, a panel discussion on the policies of media organizations with regard to gender issues, organized by the National Commission for Women and UNESCO
12 October, 2021 - The National Commission for Lebanese Women and the UNESCO Regional Office in Beirut organized a dialogue meeting on "Media Institutions' Policies Concerning Gender Issues" within the framework of the "The Role of Media Institutions in Enhancing the Status of Women" program implemented by the Commission and UNESCO.
The meeting was attended by officials in a number of audio-visual, written and electronic media institutions, including chairmen of boards of directors, general managers, editors-in-chief and human resources managers. It comes within the framework of implementing the interventions mentioned in the National Plan for the Implementation of Security Council Resolution 1325 on Women, Peace and Security, which the government approved in 2019 and the Lebanese state committed to implement.
The meeting opened with a speech by Claudine Aoun, President of the National Commission for Lebanese Women, in which she said: "We all talk about the necessity of change and choose where to start. Our hope is that the accumulated crises we are experiencing, which force us to look seriously at the complexities of our situations, will contribute to understand the weaknesses in our society and find ways to address them. It is no longer permissible, under the conditions of deprivation we live in, to continue to ignore the reality. The matter goes beyond the weak economic and financial capabilities to the prevailing social culture, among officials as well as among the people, and our great need today is for a real cultural revolution whose subject is not limited to the political sphere, but also the social sphere, including our view of the position of women in society.”
She continued: "The topic of our meeting today revolves around thinking about the ways media institutions can contribute to the dissemination of a culture of equality between women and men. I say culture because the topic is not limited to specific demands in which women's rights are still disadvantaged, but rather a lifestyle in which men act as women do, as two equal persons in a society that respects each of its members with their individuality, beliefs and opinions. From this human rights point of view, we approach the rights of women and their position in society. Media organizations build their policies on respecting freedom of opinion, and our system of democratic government derives its legitimacy from this freedom. History has shown us that without this equality, in today’s world, there is no civilization, and the growth of peoples is not sustainable. And we all know that societal culture is not a rigid given that we inherit from our fathers and pass on to our children. Every human being should always strive to improve the conditions of life and not be an obstacle to the movement of development and progress”.
She added: "The central role that the media play in helping us understand human development and identifying the challenges that hinder the progress of our societies and ways to overcome them, is not a secret. The obstacles we encounter in our countries to achieve gender equality are related to the difficulty of amending laws and measures that are unfair to women's rights. It is also difficult to reach the evolution of mentalities that are still affected by patterns of social relations that were based on past social structures that no longer exist today. The roles played by women in our present society have changed, as have the roles of men, but many laws still assume that men are the sole breadwinners of the family and that women are weak human beings who always needs the guardianship of a man”.
She said: "It is important to us in the National Commission for Lebanese Women that media organizations promote and support the legal reforms that we demand for fairness to women. It is no longer permissible for our laws to remain silent in regards to child marriage, to rejecting the right of a Lebanese mother to transfer her nationality to her children, and to Lebanon being included among the most backward countries in terms of women's political participation. The women of Lebanon do not ask to be a mere decoration to a ministerial line-up. They are simply citizens who are hurt to see their country fall without having the opportunity to help”.
"This is the image that we want you to promote. Despite the refusal of the joint parliamentary committees a few days ago to consider amending the Parliamentary Elections Law to include a quota for women, the National Commission is continuing its efforts to achieve this reform, which we consider necessary to achieve the participation of women in representing citizens and taking part in the legislation process. In light of our complex system in which political, regional, sectarian and ideological affiliations are intertwined and geopolitical considerations influence it, it is difficult for our political parties to give priority to the nomination of women instead of men. Women are rarely able to persuade party leaders to nominate them and it is difficult, under the current law, for them to succeed if they run as independents”.
She concluded: “We rely on the media for this the practice and promotion of a culture of equality between women and men. It will have more impact in our society if it is accompanied by an apparent keenness from media institutions to highlight the role of women working in these places in terms of decision-making, to represent the institution in professional associations and conferences, to secure favorable conditions for women at work, and adopt guiding policies for media professionals to support issues of equality. We need today a sincere commitment to work on developing our society and it may require a change in the topics we give priority to. Adopting and promoting a culture of equality to enhance the status of women in society requires, in addition to highlighting women in the roles they play, to discuss topics that affect their lives in particular, such as personal status laws, family violence, sexual harassment, electronic blackmail, and the difficulties that women face when participating in public life”.
From her side, Costanza Farina, Director of the UNESCO Regional Bureau for Education in the Arab States in Beirut, delivered a speech in which she said: " we need to speed up the pace of progress in gender equality. We need to take advantage of digital opportunities to advance this goal, and we need to counter new trends that reinforce and exacerbate the existing patterns of discrimination, stereotyping and oppression”.
She added: “It is evident that media and social media can play a key role in both increasing gender inequality and fostering equality. It follows then that gender-sensitive journalism can directly contribute to realizing Sustainable Development Goal 5, which aims to “Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls”. Such journalism is also integral to SDG 16.10, which challenges the world to ensure “public access to information and fundamental freedoms”, and more broadly, is key to democracy and sustainable development”.
She continued: “Currently, women make up more than two-thirds of the world's 750 million adults that lack basic literacy skills; women represent less than 30% of the world’s researchers; and women journalists are more exposed to assault, threat or physical, verbal or digital attack than their male counterparts.”
“At UNESCO, we believe that all forms of gender-based discrimination are violations of human rights, as well as a significant barrier to the achievement of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and its 17 Sustainable Development Goals. With Gender Equality as one of UNESCO’s two global priorities, our message is clear: women and men must enjoy equal opportunities, choices, capabilities, power and knowledge as equal citizens. Equipping girls and boys, women and men with the knowledge, values, attitudes and skills to tackle gender disparities is a precondition to building a sustainable future for all.”
Dr. Jad Melki, Director of the Media Research and Training Institute at the Lebanese American University, presented findings related to the topic, after which the door was opened for discussion and the exchange of experiences and opinions among the participants and participants.
The meeting will be followed by two round tables with media professionals, editors and correspondents from visual, written, audio and electronic media institutions to discuss how to change the stereotypical image of women in the media.