How to Waste an Excellent Project: "Women in Media" Seminar Fades into a Non-Event


Pity that Angela King, Assistant Secretary General responsible for gender equality, has not been feeling well for awhile. In her absence, the Division for Advancement of Women has been bungling its way advancing nothing much. Its staff was entrusted recently with running a seminar on Women in the Media, a long-awaited worthwhile project. Anyone with simple newspaper literacy could produce an impressive list of possible participants. Anyone with basic communications skills could have arranged to make some impact.

Instead, a "seminar" hosted in Beirut by ESCWA, the UN regional commission, fizzled into such a non-event that it was hardly reported even by the local mainstream papers. The main coverage highlighted the speech by the Minister of Information, in addition to a very good interview with Therese Gastaut from U.N. Headquarters. Another noted participant was Barbara Crossette of the New York Times. Typically hospitable to visitors, media officials extended the usual courtesy of opening speeches, lunches and dinners, honouring the participants. That need not be confused with the substantive impact of advancing the cause of women in a deserving region. Except for the staff themselves from that Division -- plus an appropriate participant from DPI -- there were none of the many outstanding women reporters appearing daily on the screens of the region. No mobilization of public opinion for that cause, nor any real understanding of what the subject matter really required. With such glaring failure, the meeting was eventually described as an "expert" group. What experts? Only one international reporter made her way.

By now, many feel that the work of the Division of the Advancement of Women needs a thorough review in the reform process. A label of tokenism, let alone lack of creative initiative, is already hanging over it. Wasting limited funds on such travel under the guise of promoting a good cause is too obvious a pretext. Meanwhile, we wish Angela King speedy recovery, not only for the sake of that failing programme, but in order to continue her dedicated work which she performed with consistant excellence.