Covering Beijing+15 from the sidelines

The 15-year review
“Beijing+15” of the Fourth World Conference on Women’s Platform
for Action by the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women
(UN CSW) has been going on for a week now.



When it comes to
covering this all important review which comes every five years, one
would think that media organizations like the Women’s
Feature Service
(WFS) which had actively covered most of the 12
areas of concern of women for the past 15 years would be given UN
Media Accreditation at least for this 54th session of the
CSW. Unfortunately for WFS
Philippines
which I head, that is not the case. For the first
time since Beijing, I can only cover side events, albeit a more
interesting and diverse coverage.






You are not media”



Alternative
media. Advocacy journalism”
are just some of the terms used to
describe our work. We are known in our country as a news agency
covering development from the women’s perspective. Our work
includes training local journalists in print and broadcast to view
all issues with a gender lens and linking them with local NGOs to
bring out women’s stories.



When I explained our
media work to Ms. Isabelle Broyer, Chief of the UN Media
Accreditation and Liaison Unit, she said:“This is not to
discredit your work. I went to your website. I know you help media.
But you are not media.”



I pointed out that WFS
was in fact initiated by the UN in 1978 during the Decade for Women
precisely to try to put the missing women’s perspective in
mainstream media. “But the UN is not media,” Broyer said.



Although the young man
at the UN media accreditation office was somewhat impressed at my
credentials, Ms. Broyer was not in (I just talked to her on the
phone) to see some of the stuff that I had brought to convince her
that WFS is indeed a news agency with a pool of writers nationwide. I
had with me a letter of assignment from WFS India, with whom we
exchange stories; our articles of incorporation which reads “ to
engage, conduct and carryout…the business of news agency, news wire
stories.”



When I reminded her
that she had given me media accreditation for the Beijing+5 in 2000
and Beijing+10 in 2005, her reply was “I made a mistake.”



Who
are we?



I too made a major
mistake of uploading our organization profile to the UN NGO list and
we had email exchanges about this. I thought I could convince her,
being a woman and maybe a journalist herself. But she had made up her
mind, “We do not give accreditation to NGOs.”


I was thinking of
getting accreditation as an NGO. However, that would negate my
assertion that WFS is a media organization. Just as I was inquiring
into that possibility, the lady at the counter for NGOs confiscated
my 2005 UN media ID. “This is mine now,” she said, looking
very pleased with herself. I protested that that was my souvenir. I
just shrugged my shoulders and left - insulted that she thought I
would try to sneak into the UN using an old ID but more saddened at
the loss of one of my Beijing souvenirs.



For 20 years, to assert
WFS as a media organization, I always sign in as media, not NGO. What
differentiates us from NGOs? Our core work is media work. Our main
products are features for the print media, awareness raising,
multimedia campaigns and publications. That was the question of our
newly formed Board of Directors in 2003. What are we? We were then
composed of three journalists and three non-journalists. In the end,
we opted for “a women’s organization working through
mainstream media”
Does that make us an NGO and not media?




Real meaning of
media



What
is media?



  1. The
    means of communication, as radio
    and television, newspapers, and magazines, that reach or influence
    people widely or an intervening
    agency.


  2. The
    means, or instrument by which something is conveyed or accomplished:
    Words are a medium of expression.


  3. One
    of the means or channels of general communication, information, or
    entertainment in society, as newspapers, radio, or television.


(http://dictionary.reference.
com/browse/media
)



Is there such a
creature as media NGOs? In one of the brochures I picked up, the
Gender
and Media Diversity Center
is a consortium of media NGOs. It goes
on to list its members, some of whom were my colleagues at the
“Beijing Watch” daily in 1995.



What is the thinking
here? Are non-profit media like us, struggling as they are to
survive, not part of media? Women’s media, small as they are,
without the rich resources of mainstream media, are the sources of
real women’s stories, giving ordinary women a voice, struggling to
keep women in the public debate of all issues that affect their
lives.



What does this
experience say of the empowerment of women in the media? The CSW
review is about gender equality, development and peace. I’m glad
that some “media NGOs” like
ISIS
are part of the CSW review to watch out for women in the
media concerns or Section J in the Beijing Platform for Action. I
quote some relevant details that should guide the UN Media
Accreditation staff.



Strategic
objective J.i
1.Increase
the participation and access of women to expression and
decision-making in and through the media and new technologies of
communication



239. By Governments:


(f)
Encourage and recognize women's media networks, including electronic
networks and other new technologies of communication, as a means
for the dissemination of information and the exchange of views,
including at the international level, and support women's groups
active in all media work and systems of communications to that end;



245.
By the media, non-governmental organizations and the private sector,
in collaboration, as appropriate, with national machinery for the
advancement of women:


(d)
Support the development of and finance, as appropriate, alternative
media and the use of all means of communication to disseminate
information to and about women and their concerns;



How will mainstream
media report the goings on in the CSW? In a full theater at the
recent Global Fund for
Women
conversations, when asked how many know of the Convention
on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women or
CEDAW or that the US is among only three nations that had not
ratified it, only a few hands were raised. Is it because mainstream
media do not report it? Because this is not considered news?



WFS has had several
stories published in mainstream media and radio discussions aired on
CEDAW and human rights. They may be few but we hope these had created
some awareness of women’s rights. I used to believe that if women
knew their rights they could claim it. But that’s only when
empowerment begins. Knowledge is power. And where the work of media
and advocacy comes in.



Lately I have come to
the conclusion that knowing your rights and being empowered do not
necessarily mean you can claim your rights automatically. We still
have to keep chipping away at social structures and policies that
discriminate against women. And which means we still have a lot of
work to do.



I dream of the day when
WFS will cease to exist at least in the Philippines, not because it
has become unsustainable, but because our goal of putting women’s
perspective in mainstream media had already been achieved.



Olivia
H. Tripon
is Philippine Bureau Chief and Country Consultant for
Women’s Feature Service. She was with the team of contributing
editors to Beijing Watch dailies at the first Asia Pacific Women’s
NGO Summit in Manila, 1993; regional prepcom in Jakarta, 1994; Fourth
World Conference on Women in Beijing, 1995; and Beijing+5 in New
York, 2000. Now Executive Director of WFS Philippines. Olivia has
also covered Beijing+10 in 2005 for UNFPA. This piece has been made
possible with support from the Global Fund for Women.