Gbenga Osinaika Photo: Contributed
There was perhaps no better time to visit New York City than the month of March. The World Association for Christian Communication (WACC) had taken the lead ahead of the Sixty-first session of the Commission on the Status of Women to organise a consultation for its project partners spread across about 25 countries. The partners, largely English and Spanish speaking participated in a three-day intensive consultation focusing on Gender and media: Challenges and opportunities in the post 2015 era.
It was a great privilege to be part of the sessions and subsequent sessions at the instance of WACC.
For me it was such a breathtaking experience. From our arrival on March 8 to the last day of March 16, I had no cause to regret my participation. The event was enriching for me given the quality of discussions and presentations.
The strategic planning by the duo of Sarah Macharia and Gisele Langendries made a whole lot of difference. They were both on hand to welcome us. The accommodation, the meals, the breakout sessions and the graceful outlook of these two officials of WACC made the whole difference as well as the quality of resource persons who shared their experiences. It was no doubt a time of deep reflections and re-strategizing on how to go about the gender assignment.
One issue that stuck out for me repeatedly which Sarah tried to reiterate was the need to redefine gender advocacy. Is it about feminism, gender parity or liberation for women? Having listened to all the project partners share their experiences, it seemed to me that the redefinition of the goal by WACC and other organisations pursuing gender issues is imperative. There is also an urgent need to place emphasis on systemic change in the media; a change that will allow for statutory interventions on issues of gender parity. Given the reality that the “He tells her story” in most instances; the perspective to the issues on the ground will always be jaundiced. He who pays the piper dictates the tune.
Subsequent parallel sessions during CSW61 held at the UN building also provided useful insight with regard to what a faith based organization like WACC should be doing in the coming years. And the point was strengthened with the presentation from Karri Whipple during the WACC-North America event held at the Community Church of New York City on the need to look at the issues of poverty and want in the African milieu. She stated rightly that issues of liberation mean little to African women who are still struggling with survival. Coming from Africa, and having participated in media monitoring of the reportage of women; one appreciates that what concerns the average African woman is survival.
Going back to the initial three-day project partners’ consultation sessions, it is gladdening to note that the library of information on what transpired in the countries where WACC supports projects was strengthened. I was particularly fascinated by the presentation of Pham Thi Minh Hang who through pictures narrated the oppression of the women by men in Vietnam. It was quite disturbing for me to see pictures of women carrying sick men on their backs to the hospital. That further strengthens the need to rework the perspective to the issues of women’s liberation. Is it feminism, liberation or gender parity? That may just be another round of debates for the days to come. In all, I think WACC has stirred the hornets’ nest and may well be ready to strengthen this line of discussion in days to come.
Gbenga Osinaike, Journalists for Christ International Outreach, Nigeria