The Institute of War and Peace Reporting has launched a important new project – the Women’s Reporting and Dialogue Programme. To receive emails, please subscribe here. IWPR Director Anthony Boden explains the new venture.
The Institute for War & Peace Reporting supports local journalists at the frontlines of crisis and change. In launching our Women’s Reporting and Dialogue Programme, IWPR looks at a different kind of frontline – the battle women in Islamic countries are waging to define new rights in changing times.
Amid war, revolution and extended political transition, this change may be the most fundamental of all. Longstanding social, political and cultural habits are being challenged. Women are seeking to redefine their roles, in the public sphere as political leaders and active citizens, and in private as equal partners in families with more control over their own lives, livelihoods and bodies. This is a true revolution.
There is an enormous amount to be gained, as societies unleash the creative power of half of their populations. But there are also serious risks – resistance and even violent backlash against change, and new forms of exploitation and degradation. The greatest challenge of all may be to define new rights and responsibilities for women while respecting the cultures and the practices of Islam, with all its diversity.
We are particularly proud that of some 18 high-profile current or recent projects by IWPR worldwide, 14 have been managed by women. Through this expertise, IWPR is uniquely placed to run such a programme.
The project brings a clear set of tools – skills training, extensive reporting and dialogue activities to raise debate within local civil society. IWPR is a practical organisation, and will seek to strengthen the capacity to women to make themselves heard within local media, through regional syndication and internationally via IWPR’s website and electronic publications. The flagship will be a fortnightly electronic publication, Women’s Perspectives.
The activities will focus on women journalists in Afghanistan, Central Asia, Azerbaijan and the North Caucasus – with launch support from the US Department of State. Relevant issues arising in other IWPR country programmes will be brought into the mix, and we hope to be able to continue to expand the remit of the programme, in order to extend and enrich this vital debate.
But it is essential to stress that IWPR brings no preconceived solutions. The answers for each society must be worked out within those communities. IWPR’s goal in this project is to help ensure that, in those debates, half of the populations have their say.
Anthony Borden is executive director of IWPR. (AJ)