BEIRUT: Media must play a larger role in empowering women in Lebanon and the wider the Middle East and North Africa region, a chorus of United Nations experts said Tuesday.
The collection of regional experts assembled at the U.N.’s Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia headquarters in Downtown Beirut for a two-day conference on improving gender-based equality and promoting regional female participation.
“The meeting [addresses] region-wide radical transformations and changes in which women are playing a noticeable, but marginalized, role because media is not giving it the right coverage,” said Fatme Kassem, head of ESCWA’s Center for Women, chairing the event.
Media has been identified by the landmark 1995 Beijing Platform for Action for the Advancement of Women – a major developmental conference – as a key stakeholder in the fight against gender-based injustice, she explained.
In line with these recommendations, we must conduct more scientific research and studies to identify women-related media policies, she added, while also calling on all 13 ESCWA member countries to adopt and implement national strategies on improving women’s rights.
The experience of Jordan, which has used media to bolster support for domestic violence legislation and for the rights of working women, alongside that of Morocco, which has launched a widespread advertising campaign to lift reservations over the Convention for the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women, were both advocated as possible models for the region.
It is hoped Lebanese activists, currently calling for the introduction of a draft law explicitly prohibiting domestic abuse, could particularly benefit from the information exchange, delegates heard.
The convention is partially adopted by the majority of Arab countries, including Lebanon, which have allowed religious courts to continue to rule on personal status laws, covering issues such as marriage, divorce and inheritance that discriminate against women.