Women in the World

20 Mar 2010

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"At this point, men have impoverished the world, set…many nations at war with each other and set us on a pollution path to the destruction of the planet. Do you think it might be time for women to have their say?" asks GRITtv presenter Laura Flanders, reporting on a conference that brought together prominent women from all over world to talk about their successes and the myriad challenges still faced by women in a male dominated world.

The conference convened by American publication, The Daily Beast, was titled Women in the World: Stories and Solutions.

The proverbial glass ceiling is still very much in place for women despite enormous strides made by feminists and other women leaders.

France's, Christine Lagarde, the world's first female minister of finance had sage advice for women who find themselves working in fields dominated by men. "Never imitate the boys," she said. "Don't assume that you're going to be better heard because you shout louder, because you use slang, and behave like the boys around the table. Just be yourself. We have plenty of energy, confidence, and technical expertise to fit the bill and to hold the position without having to necessarily comply with the model that has been set by other people."

Also at the conference was peace activist, Leymah Gbowee, from Liberia who organised a "sex strike" to help bring an end to the war in Liberia. She believes that African first ladies have a huge amount of influence that's overlooked, which should be channelled to improve the lot of women on the continent. She proposed that the first lady of America, Michelle Obama, host a summit for African first ladies. In her view, this would have a tremendous impact on women's lives on the continent.

At the summit, it was recognised that there is still one important institutional role player that continues to play a crucial function reinforcing gender stereotypes and undermining women -- the media.

In response, one of the strategies employed by the conference was to get famous Hollywood icons to perform in a play where real life activists were portrayed and their causes highlighted.

Meryl Streep played Irish labour activist, Inez McCormack, the first female head of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions.

Just a few days before the conference McCormack released a press statement about the poor housing conditions of women in her constituency and only managed to get two lines published in a newspaper. However, with Streep having played her in the play, she got 15 interviews in just one day. It was a poor reflection of how the media operates and what it prioritises.

The Women in the World conference was focused on finding solutions for women's problems. One of the outcomes of the conference was a Solutions Cheat Sheet.

You can find this page online at http://sacsis.org.za/site/article/217.19.

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