Only a few days after a woman has been brutally executed in Afghanistan for alleged adultery the last panel at DLDwomen conference addresses issues like gender equality, power and the role of women in the 21st century.
Today’s women are enjoying rights that only a couple of generations ago were unthinkable. However, President and Chief Executive Officer of the Paley Centre for Media, Pat Mitchell, claims: “the world is changing, but there are still many places where being a woman is dangerous. When I was born women’s life aspiration in the US was to marry a man and have 2’5 children. Actually I didn’t care, I had my dreams and I knew I was meant to do something else”
Mitchell made a really touching introduction to Catalina Escobar, founder of Juan Felipe Gómez Escobar Foundation (Cartagena, Colombia). “Catalina is one of a kind, a woman who turned the tragedy of loosing a son into the strongest working passion”.
When her son Juanfe (Juan Felipe) passed away, Catalina realized that children’s mortality was way to high in Colombia. From that moment on her goal in life became to save as many Colombian children as possible from an early death. “Juanfe’s death is the saddest story of my live, but this is also a love story. Now I have many sons. All those under the protection of Juan Felipe Gómez Escobar Foundation are my Juanfes”, confesses Catalina Escobar with glassy eyes.
Catalina’s commitment with children has become an obsession, “when you work in this field, every single night, before going to sleep, you think: you better come up with something else because these children deserve better”.
Women are extremely involved in humanitarian work today. Catalina is not the only example of a woman whose main target in life is to help others. Edit Schlaffer, founder of Women without Borders, explains how the organisation tries to help women in troubled areas of the word.
“There are no women in top security-political positions, but I can tell you that women have a special skill when it comes to conflict solving. Unlike what we see on the Western press, most Afghan mothers are horrified with the idea of her sons joining terrorist cells, they just need support so they can put an end to this violent situation.
Women without Borders operates in nine countries where they explore the potential of women to reduce violence. “We actually believe that women are security experts”, adds Schlaffer.
Mitchell, who is moderating the panel, cannot avoid but to intervene and remind the audience that power is still a male concept. “Women stay away from power because it is a male invention. We, women, should change the concept of power; we think that power is ‘a bad-guys-business’, but the reality is that power allows change.
Cairo-based political strategist and CEO of Karama, Hibaaq Oman, stresses that, as far the Arab Spring is concerned, there’s still a lot of hard work to do: “if a government leaves women behind they are not respecting one of the key pillars of the democratic Arab movements”.
But women are not just misrepresented in the Arab world, sexism is very much alive, specially on TV and advertising. Filmmaker, actress, and advocate for women Jennifer Siebel Newsom, who joins the talk via Skype from California, talks about the misrepresentation of females on TV.
“We have an enormous power as media consumers, however we are still often portrayed as objects. My job is to remind everyone our role as citizens and consumers. Bear in mind that, despite accounting for 51% of the US population, only 17% of the Congress are women”.
Newsom’s inspiring movie “MissRepresentation” is already out, you can check out the trailer here.