The road to more representative media across the world opened up at the Global Forum on Media and Gender in Bangkok, Thailand. The historic event saw the groundwork laid for the end-goal of the three-day conference: the establishment of the Global Alliance for Media and Gender.
More than 200 delegates from over 80 countries gathered for the Forum's opening ceremony, where speakers outlined the complex dimensions around the problems of gender stereotyping and women lacking decision-making power in media. All agreed that a concerted international effort was needed to redress the imbalance.
In his opening speech, Janis Karklins, UNESCO’s Assistant Director-General for Communication and Information, provided an outline for the Global Alliance for Media and Gender. “This alliance will provide the long needed unified international push required to follow up on the 1995 Beijing Declaration and Plan of Action at the United Nations Fourth World Conference on Women,” Karklins said. "UNESCO, its constituencies and its partners regard this event as an invitation to have all actors join forces in a Global Alliance for Media and Gender to catalyze deep change for women’s empowerment and gender equality in and through media," he added.
Thai Education Minister Chaturon Chaisang said he was proud that his country had a woman Prime Minister, but accurate representations of women in the media are necessary in order to empower more women globally. “For media to produce coverage that is complete and diverse, it is essential that media content goes deeper than male-centric and stereotypical perspectives. All journalists, both male and female, can work to create an enabling environment for gender equality,” he stressed.
UN Women Director Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka noted in her video address that while there has been progress since 1995, it has been slow, and that more women are needed as decision makers and that content must be free from gender stereotype. "The media must become a force of change in advancing women's agenda. Media and modern technology has great potential in making the 21st century the century of women," she said.
The move to greater inclusion in the media also makes sense from an economic perspective, argued Dr Eun-Ju Kim, the Regional Director of the International Telecommunication Union, in her opening remarks. Dr Kim cited statistics supporting the benefit to economies of women actively engaged in knowledge societies.
Mr Luc Stevens, UN Resident Coordinator, delivered a message on behalf of UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon. He stressed the importance of safety for women journalists in the often hostile environments they face. "Every day around the world age-old stereotypes and culturally imposed limitations combine to deny women their right to free expression. Too many women journalists face intimidation, threats and violence from governments, corporations, criminals or other forces trying to silence or censor them. Gender equality is essential for achieving the Millennium Development Goals, forging a vision of development beyond 2015 and ensuring the genuine equality we need to create a better future for all people," he said.