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Empowering women through media explored at UN meeting in Beirut

Empowering women through media explored at UN meeting in Beirut

ESCWA's chief Mervat M. Tallawy
Women media experts and journalists meeting at the United Nations House in Beirut today began a four-day conference aimed at assessing how communications technology can serve to promote gender equality worldwide.

Addressing participants, the Executive Secretary of the UN Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA), Mervat Tallawy, said the media, with all the technological advancement within its reach, could help in transforming the traditions and customs which have greatly hampered the advancement of Arab women.

"We hope the media will change … the negative and stereotypical image of women," Ms. Tallawy said. She hailed the numerous UN conferences which have helped improve conditions facing women and said media should begin according priority to women's issues.

In an opening statement, Lebanon's Minister of Information, Ghazi Aridi, said the media, which has an important role to play in influencing public opinion, should shed light on the problems that women face around the world. At the same time, she warned against attempts to use the plight of women only to promote State policies, citing the example of Afghanistan. Afghan women had been oppressed for years under the Taliban regime, but their plight was only highlighted when a war was being planned in the country.

Speaking on behalf of the UN Department of Public Information (DPI), Therese Gastaut, Director of its Strategic Communications Division, said the UN was taking a two-pronged approach to the issue, advocating women's increased participation and access to the media, while promoting a balanced and non-stereotyped portrayal of women. She said DPI will be looking to the results of the four-day meeting as it strives to improve its communication programmes for the advancement of women.

The event was organized by the UN's Division for the Advancement of Women in collaboration with DPI, ESCWA and the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).