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Women’s Empowerment Via Technology and Free Media

UNITED NATIONS, Mar 11 2014 (IPS) - “New technologies can be powerful multipliers for human rights and empowerment; but this doesn’t happen by itself. It requires strong frameworks and policies,“ said Irina Bokova, Director-General of the UN Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).

She said real empowerment comes from skills and opportunities to use them.

To coincide with current session of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW), which began Monday, the United Nations hosted a panel discussion on information and communications technology (ICT), free media and women’s empowerment.

“ICTs must be inclusive, bridging divides, not deepening them,“ Bokova stated, stressing they must be underpinned by respect for human rights and dignity.

This side-event was aimed at highlighting the urgency to empower women and girls though access to ICTs, as well as promoting an environment for a free and independent media.

Statistics show that women are 25 percent Internet users in Africa, 22 percent in Asia, 38 percent in Latin America, and a mere 6 percent in the Middle East.

The results of the survey on “Violence and Harassment Against Women in the News Media” were presented at this side event. Created by the International Women’s Media Foundation (IWMF), the study gives an overview of the global situation of female journalists and the nature of the dangers they face.

According to UNESCO, 33 women journalists and media workers were killed between 2006 and 2013. “I stand up every time a journalist is killed and call for justice,“ Bokova said.
“This global survey reveals a hidden crisis: a crisis of threats and abuse, of sexual harassment, affecting all regions of the world,“ she added.

Elisa Lees Munoz, Executive Director of International Women’s Media Foundation (IWMF), also highlighted some of the results of the survey.

Nearly two-thirds of respondents said they had experienced acts of “intimidation, threats and abuse” in relation to their work, where bosses were the most commonly reported perpetrators of “intimidation, threats and abuse.” Of 546 respondents, 14.3 percent said they had experienced sexual violence in relation to their work.

According to Munoz, “We all agree that journalists have personal responsibilities with regard to their preparedness; but there are security measures that media organizations can provide as well,“ such as measures for accountability within the workforce.

“Media has the power to transform both women, who work in the media, and the many more in the audience; understanding what they want, what they listen to, what information they hunger for,“ stated Anne Bennett, Executive Director of Hirondelle Foundation USA.

A study on women active in the ICT sector published in October 2013 by the European Commission found that more women entering the digital jobs market can boost gross domestic product (GDP) by an annual 9 billion euros in the European Union countries alone.

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