On Thursday, December 3rd, 2009, five influential voices in women’s rights gathered to discuss equality for women and girls around the world. The event, Accelerating Equality for Women and Girls around the World: A Conversation with Media, Activists, Entrepreneurs and You, was moderated by Maria Hinojosa, Senior Correspondent for NOW on PBS, and was held at the Paley Center for Media in New York City. Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn, authors of Half the Sky, Taina Bien-Aimé, Executive Director of Equality Now, Bill Drayton, Founder and CEO of Ashoka, Ana Langer, President of EngenderHealth and Advisor to the Maternal Health Task Force, hashed out topics ranging from the roots of gender inequities and power to the role of the media in advancing the empowerment of women and girls. While the discussion was not explicitly focused on maternal health or on Millennium Development Goal No. 5, parts of the discussion were quite relevant to the work of the MHTF.
Ana Langer helped to reframe the discussion about gender inequities and power by calling on society to make room for men in this social movement to empower girls. She explained that this discussion should not be about who is more powerful and why, but rather the discussion should be about how men can be included in the process of change. She also highlighted the successes of EngenderHealth’s Men As Partners® program, a program that recognizes the crucial role men play in the sexual and reproductive health of populations and works to engage with them around a variety of issues related to sexual and reproductive health, including safe pregnancy.
As the discussion shifted to the role of the media in advancing gender equality, Sheryl WuDunn explained that, unfortunately, the media often function under the mantra that “things that happen every day are not news.” She said that when she and Nicholas Kristof reported on Tiananmen Square, their stories often ran on the front page–but when they wrote about the killing of infant girls throughout China, a practice that killed and kills far more people than the Tiananmen Square incident, their stories received less attention.
Taina Bien-Aimé called on the media to rethink this mantra. She demanded that a woman who is about to be stoned to death in Iran must be considered news and that upcoming mass female circumcision in Kenya must be considered news and that these sorts of topics certainly merit coverage.