To mark the International Women's Day on 8 March 2004, UNESCO's Director-General, Koïchiro Matsuura, is launching for a third time the global initiative "Women Make the News". UNESCO appeals to all media producing daily news to hand over editorial responsibility to women to cast the news for a day.
As Mr. Matsuura recalls: "There can be no sustainable development if the intellectual capacities, creative potential, practical resourcefulness and leadership abilities of more than half of the world's population are ignored or suppressed."
UNESCO's appeal for equality in the media - as in all other spheres - is a part of the struggle for genuine democracy in society at large and in media institutions in particular. It is a matter of human rights. As long as men and women are not given the possibility to work together on an equal basis, sharing the same rights and the same responsibilities, there is a democratic deficit in our societies.
Women make up more than a third of the world's journalists. They work in newspapers and magazines, in broadcasting and on-line media and they cover every issue from education to war. But they are still a long way from achieving equality with men in the newsrooms or rising to key editorial positions where influential decisions are made. The UNESCO initiative aims to raise awareness of this gender inequality.
There are different subtle and not-so-subtle ways in which women are discriminated against in the media. For example, journalists rarely resort to women as sources for their story, even when such women are established authorities in their respective fields. Similarly, the stereotypical generic woman is often the subject of ridicule in cartoons and caricatures. Women in rural areas are for the most part ignored by the media. Both television programmes and drama often reinforce the stereotypical images of women.
"Women Make the News 2004" also aims to provide a platform for learning from each other's experiences and collaborating to design more effective policies to improve the status of women journalists in the media. Through this initiative, UNESCO seeks a new way to tackle old issues - and forge new ground for women media professionals.
If you agree to be a "partner" organisation, we kindly ask you to send us a short message of support with your logo and to disseminate the information on UNESCO's initiative over the coming weeks. Each media organisation is free to determine how it wishes to implement the initiative. A dedicated interactive website is operational for registration at www.unesco.org/march8. For the remaining two weeks up until 8 March, media will be encouraged to announce their own initiatives on the site. It will then also become a global news resource for media wanting to cover the event as a story.
To contact the organizers please write to: e-mail address: