Danielle Cliche, Ritva Mitchell, Andreas Joh. Wiesand
In preparation for the UNESCO Intergovernmental Conference on Cultural and Media Policies for Development, to take place in Stockholm Sweden, 30 March to 2 April 1998, the Culture and Development Unit of UNESCO commissioned several background papers to elaborate global issues for each of the key themes to be discussed. Following the submission of these background papers, the issue of gender relations in the arts, media and cultural development required further elaboration, in view of the fact that it was taken up as a subject of key importance in the report of the World Commission on Culture and Development. The European Research Institute for Comparative Cultural Policy and the Arts (ERICArts) was commissioned to provide a background paper to add a gender dimension to each of these themes and make recommendations for the development of cultural policies.
This is both a simple and difficult task. Women are, on the one hand, slowly achieving recognition for their talents and gaining access to the economic and political decision making processes which had, up to now, framed and restricted their rights and means to expression. To reflect these struggles on a few pages as well as finding a balance between the daily positive actions and deterrent messages is not easy, on the other hand. Volumes have been written about women and their fight for equality. More and more texts exist about the relationship of women to science, technologies and the media. Little research or policy attention, however, has been given to women in cultural policies and the arts. Few of those that do exist, present sufficient empirical evidence that could be used for the further development or improvement of cultural policies. More in-depth and representative investigation is required to help steer policy makers toward facilitating change.
Five main keywords reflect both the "underlying values" and main results of research which were important in the development of our text and refer not only to the past, but to current aspirations of women in 90's. They have been derived from and confer with those appearing in many international treaties and political declarations. They should be used as guides or indicators for the evaluation of culture and media policies in reference to gender equality as well as to the promotion of other marginalised groups in society. They include:
1. EQUALITY: Women must have access to decision-making positions in cultural policy, the arts and the media, receive equal pay for equal work, and have the same social conditions (which does not rule out specific measures for women such as child care). They must also have access to further education and training programmes and have the same opportunities as men. UNESCO could co-ordinate a world wide study on the working status of women in the arts and cultural sector similar to the one it published on gender employment in the media. Special attention should be placed on the social and legal frameworks (including equity policies and insurance laws). Regional models for such studies, including the one presently carried out for the European Union, could serve as a starting point.
2. DIVERSITY: Women must be free to express themselves, including those with differing values and opinions. The differences among women must be acknowledged and supported, but emphasis should be given to furthering their presence and contribution to cultural life as a whole. Pluralism must be the overriding principle when educating the new generations. Textbooks and curricula should be occasionally revised by the state to eliminate chauvinism and discrimination of any kind and must also include positive "role models" (historical and contemporary) that different groups in society can associate with. In this regard, the grave imbalance among women and men in higher positions in universities and other important public institutions requires change and monitoring.
3. RECOGNITION: This point concerns both cognitive realisation and emotive respect. Women's rights as human rights must be recognised along with their past and present achievements. Society will only then be able to make full use of the wealth of talent, expression and experience contributed, but often not recognised sufficiently, by women over the ages. Governments must work together with media organisations and community groups to disseminate information about the achievements of women in the arts, culture and media. Projects such as the creation of national and international databases (inventories) of women artists or women working in the media as well as the work of the Media Monitoring centres around the world should be supported.
4. TRANSPARENCY: Political decision-making processes rely on the unbiased production, accessibility and dissemination of information (including research results). Quality media programming and freedom of expression are prerequisites to ensuring a true "creative diversity". Networks ideally function in a non hierarchical, non bureaucratic manner, thus allowing for an exchange of views and opinions free from censorship. It goes without saying that public and private support for women's networks is crucial for longer term sustainability
5. PRODUCTIVITY: Economic as well as cultural development heavily depend on creativity and innovation. Without productivity, especially in such fields as media/new technologies, sustainable development will not be achieved. There have been efforts to improve the role and the status of women by reflecting on their economic importance in the marketplace as consumers or cheap labour. Such efforts need to be reconciled with societal needs, emphasising individual creativity/talents as opposed to pure market demands. Governments should explore other ways to promote equality by referring to examples of productivity in the arts, cultural education and the media. The results of women's creativity in these fields, and also their particular talents in such areas as liberal education, can highlight and thus enhance women's status and bring otherwise abstract political principles - such as gender equality - to life, by raising general public consciousness towards this goal.