The media has been a frequent source of news from battlefields. Every now and then, journalists attempt to cover a raging war by embedding themselves in either parties, at the risk of themselves and even their company. But much remains to be seen and heard from displaced women and communities themselves in evacuation centres or any other “safer” ground. Much of news-making have yet to be transformed for peace-building. This has been the realisation of Isis International, following a series of trainings for Mindanao-based media practitioners, dubbed as “Women Making Airwaves for Peace.”
“Women Making Airwaves for Peace,” was once more featured at the 2nd Kartini Asia Network Conference 5 November 2008 at Bali, Indonesia. Titled, “The Future of Asian Feminisms, Confronting Fundamentalisms, Conflict and Neoliberalism,” the conference consisted of six panels: Women's and Gender Studies in Asia: Historical Perspective and Future Challenges; Fundamentalisms and Feminisms; Conflicts and Violence; Sexuality; Poverty, Vulnerability and Livelihoods; and Young Asian Women's Leadership Forum.
The Conflict and VAW panel sought to surface the possibilities of articulating and responding to violence against women especially in the context of war through the media.
For Pretchie Obja-an, Isis International's ICT development officer, peace journalism maximises the capacity of stories such as personal narratives, eye witness accounts and others to understand a conflict and influence its outcome. “Unlike the usual war propaganda, engendered peace journalism is peace-oriented, truth-oriented, people-oriented and solutions oriented,” she explained.
“In engendering our news, we need to ask questions such as where is the woman in the story?; what are the roles of the male and female subjects?; what are the power relationships between men and women?; how are the impacts of events and processes different for women and for men?; and where are the points of collaboration between genders?,” she added.
Women and girls are among those who are often ignored in reporting on conflict and war, even as they often constitute at least half of the affected population. Women need to be seen as active individuals who are working not only to respond to their families' needs but also to be less dependent on dole-outs. The experiences of women living near the battlefields, in evacuation centres, or in neighbouring communities are likewise different from those of men, elderly and children.
There is likewise a need to ask more empowering questions, that would help define the role of both the subject and the interview in the peace process.
While data on the movement of armed parties; the number of casualties; and the distribution of relief goods are usually reported. As Obja-an stressed, “Ask women for solutions. Explore peace ideas and solutions wherever they come from. Sustain the reportage on the peace process.”
She added that the media also has a monitoring role to play in the implementation of United Nations Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) 1325, which calls for the participation of women in the peace process. Critical in the implementation and assessment of UNSCR 1325 are the responsiveness of governments to women's needs and rights in refugee camps and evacuation centres; the presence of women in the negotiating panel; and gender training for peacekeeping forces, among others.
With Obja-an in the panel were Annie Fukushima and Umi Lasminah who presented respectively, “Asia Pacific's Silences Revisited: Women, War and [Re]Memory Through Methodology of Transnational Feminism” and “Women Media Advocacy: Seeking Allies to Stop VAW.” NS