BPA is a teen-er

The Beijing Platform for Action (BPA) is 15 years old and a
global review of the progress of its implementation will be held at
the 54th session of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) on
1-12 March 2010 at the UN Headquarters in New York City. The global
review will focus on the link between the BPA implementation and the
achievement of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), the outcome
of which will significantly contribute to the high-level meeting on
the MDGs by the General Assembly in September 2010.i

By now, inter-governmental reviews have already been held in four
regions: Western Asia (ESCWA), Europe (ECE), Asia Pacific (ESCAP),
and Africa (ECA). Latin America and Caribbean countries under ECLAC
will have the same review on 3-6 July 2010, which is rather late for
the CSW review in March 2010, but just in time for the MDG
high-level meeting in September 2010.

What’s with all the dates above? It’s a pre-conditioning
technique to get you chronologically fit when we all go back to the
age-old era of fifteen years ago, when I leaf you through a
fifteen-year old document that is the BPA. Scared yet? Maybe no, so
I’m changing track and tact. After all, age is not a scary thing!

It is being stuck in 1995 that’s scary.

AP NGO Forum for Beijing+15

At the Asia Pacific NGO Forum for Beijing+15 held on 22-24
October 2009 in Manila, APC WNSP co-organised a panel, two panels in
fact, on reviewing the Section J of the BPA: Women and The Media.
Part 1 was on “Media structure, practices and their evolution
in representing ‘gender‘”
. Part 2 was on “Re-interpreting
Section J and Why Sections A to L need the information society

We took a more active role in Part 2 — as our work, especially
on VAW and ICTs, really takes on media, and in particular,
information and communication technologies (ICTs), as a
cross-cutting issue not simply confined to Section J of the BPA. It
goes to say that ICTs have impacted on all 12 critical areas of
concern of the BPA, including education and training, violence
against women, the media, the girl child, and even women in
situations of armed conflict, among others.

Underscoring the decisive roles of ICT

At the panel, APC WNSP underscored the decisive roles of ICTs and
how they determined women’s status today. We have taken ICTs out
of its traditional confines in Section J and, you may say,
“liberated” it from what it was encased in – and scattered it
onto all four corners and in all pages of an important women’s

At the NGO Forum itself, we have engaged the BPA review process
with the recognition of rapidly changing contexts brought about by
ICTs, and how these impacted on women and girls living in such a
fast-paced information society. We encouraged a view of the BPA from
a “digitised” perspective and an information society lens which
enable us to see women in their online and offline status that
somehow broadened the scope of the otherwise conventional review.
Beijing reviews over the last ten years, almost always pertain to
the offline status of women. Such a “digitised” perspective,
perhaps never considered in the drafting of the BPA fifteen years
ago, can change the contours of the review, the policy-making
efforts, the BPA implementation, and the NGO advocacies in the

Indeed, ICTs have influenced, defined and changed the different
contexts of women defined by the BPA fifteen years ago. At times
ICTs are part of the problem, what with violence against women in
digital spaces, but they are also part of the solutions, in the most
repressive contexts women face, in serving as lifeline for women
survivors of violence, for women in situations of armed conflict,
among others.

At the panel, Chat Garcia Ramilo talked about “Communication
rights are women’s rights: The potency of information
communication technologies in ending VAW and in advancing sexual

That’s a mouthful for a title I know, but that’s how ICTs
have taken hold of the fate of BPA implementation. Failure to see
such role in all of the national, regional and international reviews
of the BPA is a failure not just of the review process, but of the
implementation of the BPA.

ESCAP’s High-level Intergovernmental Meeting (HLM) to review
the regional implementation of the Beijing Declaration and Platform
for Action

With the inputs from AP NGO Forum, the United Nations Economic
and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) convened a
High-level Intergovernmental Meeting (HLM) for Beijing+15 on 16-18
November 2009 at the United Nations Conference Centre in Bangkok.

At the end of the regional review, even ESCAP governments
recognized the limited scope of Section J. Paragraph 61 of the
Review of the Implementation of the BPA in the ESCAP Regionii
states that:

61.It has become necessary to
recast the original conceptualization of women and the media in the
Beijing Platform for Action to encompass issues relating to the
rapid changes taking place as the world evolves towards an
information and digital society. Information and communication
technologies (ICTs) are transforming the way the world operates in
fundamentally powerful ways and are becoming a central force in
shaping the crucial power structures within and among countries, and
among institutional, private sector and civil actors and
infrastructures. Thus, it is crucial that women’s concerns and
needs are integrated in emerging ICT regulatory policies.

I am almost impressed by the result of NGO lobbying on
“re-casting” Section J, except for the last bit in the
paragraph. That Section J needs re-casting tells us that governments
are in tune to the advocacies of NGOs around this. That we can meet
eye to eye at some levels feels just right, but while we’re stuck
in such an eye-set on re-casting, let no one blink on the
possibility that we are actually taking a few steps backward.
Identifying ICTs as important areas in Section J is different from
merely identifying regulatory policies. Somehow, there is always an
instantaneous reaction of “regulation” as a spontaneous
consequence of talking about ICTs. Thus the difficulty of moving the
debate forward. Communication rights has a long way to go in this
region that merely looks at regulatory policies.

Understanding 'media'

The document however is so much more progressive already, in
terms of recognising the importance of ICTs per see, than the way
media was understood at the plenary on “Regional campaign to
end violence against women”
led by Noeleen Heyzer, the
Executive Secretary of ESCAP. The plenary was to organise the
regional component of the Secretary-General’s global campaign,
UniTE to End Violence Against Women. Other regions will be organised
and yes, it is inter-governmental.

Among the resource speakers was a representative of Reuters
Alertnet, who spoke about “Exploring communication strategies
for a region-wide campaign.”
It was my weakness that all I saw
was red, so to speak, at her power point slides as she talked about
needing media, to work together, with them, to find what makes media
tick, to be knowledgeable about writing press releases and packaging
them well to suit the media’s palate, to get media interested in
the issues, what makes media tick, and lastly, what makes media

I’ve heard these all before, 15 years ago, when I started with
my first job at an NGO at a training on media work. There is
absolutely nothing wrong with the presentation, even the snobbish
attitude being impressed about media, obviously the corporate media.
What is absolutely wrong is the reference to media, the corporate
one, which used to be the media, and the only media, 15 years ago.

I walked up to the secretariat, next to the panel, to ask if I
can make an intervention as an NGO from APC. She said yes, after the
governments. For lack of time, the plenary just finished without a
single intervention from the floor.

Ticking the media, ticking the mouse

Well, what did I want to say? I wanted to intervene that in the
age of ICTs, you can be the media you want to be. You can air your
views, blog, tweet, be part of social networking and be able to have
as much a wider reach as any corporate media, or even more. This is
why a less restrictive environment, within the ambit of lesser
regulatory policies around freedom of expression, both online and
offline, are very important.

I wanted to say that I wished we were spending more time with an
activist media, or feminist media, or even a citizen media. Not with
a corporate media that it all sounds to be. The era of being at the
mercy of journalists just to get our content published, which sadly
bred a culture of envelope journalism, is already being met
decisively by being your own media. With ICTs, using and controlling
it, established media entities brokering your freedom of expression,
is but just an addition to the many creative ways to enjoy such

We all go different ways in publishing our content, and one of
them is not necessarily about finding what makes media tick. Ticking
the media is now also just about ticking the mouse. This tick may
already be about taking back the technology in the hands of women,
and by ticking technology it can help end violence against women.

When media entities make us guess and painstakingly tell us about
what makes them tick, that is being stuck in the old times.

When the meeting was adjourned, I waited with the security
personnel and gave Noeleen Heyzer the APC WNSP B+15 flyer: “It’s
about our project that looks into violence against women in digital

Oh, that’s very important,” she replied.



Division for the Advancement of Women (DAW): Fifteen-year review and
appraisal of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action

E/ESCAP/BPA/2009/2 Dated 24 September 2009. Highlights of Progress
and Challenges in Implementing the Beijing Platform for Action: Good
Practices, Obstacles and New Challenges. “Review of the
Implementation of the BPA in the ESCAP Region”