Intro: I was invited to speak on women in the entertainment industry at the World Peace Forum in Barcelona, Spain, this summer. This international Forum on forging a lasting peace, sponsored by the government of Spain and the city of Barcelona, was attended by world leaders (including Bill Clinton, Nelson Mandela, etc.) and featured a special 4-day Women’s Forum. My speech was attended by some 500 enthusiastic attendees and participants, including women with whom I’d become friends during the Forum: the First Lady of Burkina Faso (in western Africa); the minister of culture from Mali, both of whom were representing organizations to stop circumcision of girls (FGM); a woman from Tel Aviv who was promoting peace between Israelis and Palestinians; an Algerian-French woman from Paris who was promoting Muslim women’s equality in France; two women from St. Petersburg, Russia, who spoke on women’s economic freedom (and who invited me to screen Moondance films in Russia) ; a woman writer/filmmaker/actor/activist from Bangladesh; a woman from Mexico who was helping raise awareness about poor rural women and children in Mexico; a native woman environmentalist from Bolivia; and two American women who had written vital, important books during the early years of the feminist movement, Riane Eisler who wrote “The Chalice and the Blade”, and Judy Norsigian, co-writer of “Our Bodies, Ourselves”.
WORLD WOMEN’S FORUM 2004 Barcelona, Spain
“ Contributions Of Women to the
World Entertainment Community”
Statement by Elizabeth English
Women Activists Shaping Our Culture
Filmmakers, screenwriters, playwrights and other writers are vocal and active participants in the social forces that shape our culture. Reaching out toward filmmakers, screenwriters, playwrights and other writers everywhere in the world should be a primary and ongoing goal. Writers and film-makers from all six continents, and from a wide diversity of ethnic and linguistic groups must be an integral part of a world forum's mission and goals. A forum should seek to inspire and invigorate this creative potential to perceive, conceptualize, and produce their works for the benefit of the world society. It should be dedicated to preserving their accumulated accomplishments and visions as expressed through the art of film, screenplays , theatre and short stories.
The World Women's Forum can raise awareness of the invaluable contributions of women to the entertainment community. Equity for women in the entertainment industry does not mean stifling some voices so that others may be heard; it does not demand the compromising of personal standards to achieve success. Equity creates new standards which accommodate and nurture differences. Equity fosters the individual voice, investing women with confidence in their own authority. Equity unleashes the creative potential. We see the equal treatment of all women and the equal respect for all responses they explore as essential to their and our ultimate goals.
Women and Alternatives to Violence
Women writers and filmmakers often naturally depict alternatives to violence as a method of dealing with conflicts, whether personal, local, national or international, and/or show why violence as a solution to conflict is ultimately counter-productive and inhumane, and, historically, does not usually solve the conflict. Films and writings can contribute to a healthier society, and films and scripts should encourage the active involvement of audiences to connect and act collectively to address social challenges.
Women's films and scripts are innovative, distinctive, compelling and engaging, relevant to varied audiences and encourage wider participation. Women are eager to continue to be innovative, risk-taking, and open to new thinking, new concepts, new talent, and new ways of telling stories. We must continue to preserve and revitalize our intangible heritage, cultivate creative diversity, develop an intercultural dialogue, and stimulate this creative resource. Our mission must be to present to the world audience a vibrant and growing collection of films and writings, which is an ideal means for communication across perceived boundaries of race, culture, age and gender.
One of the World Women's Forum's objectives can be to identify and address the root causes of violence, and to contribute to the just and peaceful transformation of violent conflict resolution. The core of conflict transformation work is the building of a sustainable peace between all people. This involves a process of profound change in attitude, transforming situations characterized by fear and killing into environments in which reconciliation, respect for other people, social justice and participatory democracy can take root. Women must create a viable response to the rise in violent conflict between individuals, neighborhoods, in schools, different cultures and genders, within countries and the subsequent abuse of individual and collective human rights in minor and major conflict situations.
Women Motivating Audiences
These creative endeavors by women can educate and motivate the public audience and world leaders, can teach alternatives to violence, and can address issues relating to the deep-seated causes of conflict. Promoting non-violent conflict resolution within the entertainment industry does not mean stifling some voices so that others may be heard. We ask only that OUR voice be heard, also. More and more women are caught at the center of violent conflict. In ethnic, religious, gender and identity wars, women and girls are becoming the direct and deliberate victims of killing, sexual assault and rape. But women are not just victims. They have taken the initiative to reach across the conflict divide and work toward peace.
We must seek to identify and encourage these women and men, and the existing or potential opportunities for peacemaking, as well as to identify possible approaches able to create conditions for viable and less violent processes. We must believe that genuine conflict transformation can be achieved by those directly affected by the conflict. Our task is to motivate and support those young people, and women and men who are committed to forging initiatives for peace and non-violence; exploring paths toward healing and reconciliation, and creating an atmosphere encouraging dialogue within their families, neighborhoods, towns, cities and their countries, thus enabling people's participation in the entire process of learning viable methods of non-violent conflict resolution.
Today there is an ever more pressing need for conflict resolution and peace-building efforts. We can examine the role of the film, media and performing arts in our society and how we can empower these artists to use their self-expression to bring awareness and positive change to our communities. We can provide powerful insights to help others overcome their resistance to people who are different from ourselves so that we can all adopt a culture of tolerance, and experience the beauty of embracing one another as respected equals.
The Roles of Women in the World Entertainment Industry
Our role is to promote artistic cooperation and to stimulate processes of structural changes in the field of cultural policy in the world, working in tandem with local arts and culture initiatives, and with individual artists, with the understanding that needs and conditions vary dramatically among countries and artists. The strategic policy of an arts & culture network program is to be proactive, inspirational and a catalyst for cultural activities, multi-faceted in approach and inclusive of all groups of people and disciplines of artistic expression.
The arts should be shared by the world community, passing artistic traditions down to the next generations. Traditional art forms are important in maintaining cultural identity among immigrant groups, and in bringing diverse groups together, weaving this ethnic. racial, and religious/spiritual fabric into one larger community, while still maintaining cultural distinctions. A focus on the arts and community, and using culture as the medium to understand and appreciate differences, display pride, preserve cultural traditions, which enables pluralism, diversity, independence, and freedom of the arts and individual artists. If we engage people in cooperative efforts that promote cultural expression and understanding, we, and they, can, ultimately, contribute to, and encourage, peace.