Egypt’s National Population Council (NPC) has launched a media strategy for its ‘Empowering the Egyptian Family’ programme with the aim of utilising the media to change perceptions about poverty and its effect on local social issues.
“Media rhetoric addressing social values must be put into an Egyptian cultural context so as to effectively help treat our societal problems,” Vivian Fouad, media coordinator of the NPC’s family empowerment programme, told reporters and civil society representatives at a Tuesday press conference.
For example, she added, “Calls for respecting ‘the other’ should be more specific; they should provide a definition of what ‘the other’ represents in Egyptian society.”
Fouad also pointed out that the media often portrayed poor families as those who have little or no income. “But the definition should extend beyond the financial aspect to the inability of family members to access their citizenship rights,” she said.
According to Fouad, the council’s new strategy aims at encouraging the media to deliver the message that charity – as opposed to education reform and the provision of economic and social opportunities – “is not a sustainable solution.”
“The programme also tries to encourage Egyptian NGOs to adopt sustainable projects aimed at providing such opportunities rather than simply allocating funds for relief projects,” she added.
For her part, Sahar Hegazi, media director for development at the United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF), one of the programme’s partners, also said that the way family rights were addressed in the media “should be reconsidered.”
“An example of a shift in media rhetoric is that the current perception given off by the media when addressing family rights is that a focus on the latter is a kind of infringement upon women’s rights and vice versa,” she said.
“This understanding has to be changed,” Hegazi added. “The correlation between individual women and children’s rights and family rights should be clarified to society.”
The programme also aims to encourage the media to avoid the ‘politicization’ of women’s and children’s rights on the grounds that this “negatively affects sympathy for these issues,” according to the programme’s mission statement.
The rise of Islamists to power in the wake of the Egyptian revolution has given rise to certain disparities between existing laws and the Islamist perspective regarding women’s and children’s rights.
Last week, Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood drew the ire of feminist and human rights groups when it issued a statement slamming a UN declaration on women’s rights. The Islamist group asserted that the UN declaration contravened Islamic Law and called on Muslim-majority countries to reject the document.
The NPC is a government-run agency devoted to social issues, especially those pertaining to the family.