Dissemination of Gender Specific Information: Methodologies and Approaches
by its Moderator, Ms Angela King UN Assistant Secretary-General and Special Adviser on Gender Issues and Advancement of Women
I - In her introductory remarks, Ms Angela King invited the Panel to build upon the 1995 Platform for Action adopted by the Fourth World Conference on Women at Beijing, the 1996 Plan of Action adopted by the World Food Summit held in Rome and the 1992 Geneva Declaration for Rural Women adopted at the Summit on the Economic Advancement of Rural Women. These Statements provide a strategic framework for the generation and dissemination of information about rural women. Ms King stressed the need to operationalize these strategies and policies, reform both national and international institutions perpetuating inequalities, change attitudes and make these strategies and policies work for women on the ground. As reflected in the Strategy for Action prepared by FAO for the High-level Consultation, gender specific information, generated through tools including sex disaggregated data and gender analysis indicators, is essential to establish the link between production and resources, and to improve the status of rural women. To operationalize this Strategy, Ms King stressed the need for the following:
II - Ms. Angela King introduced the panelists whose presentations focused on the following points:
Bernard Cassen, Director General of Le Monde Diplomatique, stated that the main media do not care about rural development, especially when it is linked to the concept of food security, arguing that there is actually a contradiction between the idea of food security and the liberalization of the economy which encourages free trade of agricultural products. Based on this, he pointed out that the different international organizations have conflicting priorities and goals.
Paula Boyer, International News Editor at French newspaper La Croix, emphasized the growing lack of interest in the media for international news, especially news from developing countries. She argued that in general the media are not interested in events in the medium and long term, particularly television is only interested in news that carry striking pictures.
Sophie Ly, Secretary General of the World Association of Community Radio Broadcasters, made a presentation on the benefits of promoting the use of radio by women in rural areas. She argued that community radio is an easy-to-use cost-effective means of communication, and that policy-makers should encourage its wider use as a way of training and encouraging rural women to communicate and exchange valuable information.
Ruth Ochieng, Executive Director of ISIS-WICCE in Uganda, explained how her organization is promoting the dissemination of information on rural women in Uganda. She argued that national policies often fall short of the information and communication component in their policy formulation.
Manuel Calvelo Rios, a rural communication expert, presented methods and best practices for improving communication and information dissemination related to rural women. He put forward the notion of equi-potential, rather than gender equality, arguing that what matters is to promote equal opportunities for men and women, while respecting their differences.
Govind Kelkar, Professor of Sociology at the Asian Institute of Technology in Thailand, argued that ICTs which are sweeping through Asia will soon become as important as land and capital. She reflected on the specific role of ICTs in rural areas in organizing professional roles of women and men along gendered lines rather than challenging culturally and politically embedded gender relations.
III - The debate following the panel presentations was particularly lively. Participants recommended that the effects of globalization be clearly taken into account in the Strategy for Action. They also stressed the importance and benefits of the more traditional means of communication. However, it was pointed out that rural women should also benefit from the latest technologies, so that they are not left behind. It was stated that the challenge was to integrate both the traditional and the modern means of communication for an improved dissemination of information not only on, but for rural women.
IV - In her conclusion, the Moderator summarized the panelists' contributions and the main points made during the discussion with the audience. Ms King underlined the importance of recognizing rural women as planners as well as sources and end-users of information. She reiterated the need for governments' commitment to allocate more resources for gender sensitive planning and communication policies. Ms King also encouraged governments and international organizations to promote ways of attracting the media's attention and interest in issues related to rural development and food security. She stated the need to establish networks that would facilitate rural women's full participation in decision-making processes.
In her closing remarks, the Moderator referred to the diversity of critical issues raised during the panel discussion, including: the cost effectiveness of information technologies in rural areas; access of rural women to resources, including information; the impact of war; violence against women; the need to foster strong partnerships between women and men in all aspects of rural life.