The Role of the Media in Family Empowerment

General Federation of NGOs – Cairo
14 February 2010

Speech by Dr. Aly El Samman
Media Advisor of the General Federation of NGOs

Ladies and gentlemen, family empowerment, domestic peace, tolerance and family affection are not just lofty values. They are essential to the cohesion and welfare of every family. These values do not just belong to the privileged or the well educated but are shared by everyone. And yet we don’t see the media paying enough attention to them, and I will soon tell you why.

As an old hand in the media field, I’d like to ask, what is it that hinders the dissemination of this message to the public?

First obstacle

It is a fact of life that the audio, visual and print media are motivated by a desire to attract the biggest number of readers, listeners or viewers. Unfortunately, when we talk about “family empowerment”, we find that many media professionals consider this topic to be bland, not exciting, and less “attracting”. In other words, it does not help to sell their product. But if we start talking about family disintegration or collapse, here we find some excitement and a way for media professionals to sell their so called “commodity”.

Second obstacle

A topic like “family empowerment” is not an easy one to deal with. To do any meaningful reporting about it, one would have to dig through numerous sources, interview professionals, and seek information from the internet. One would have to put together a significant amount of raw material in order to address this issue in a meaningful manner. Some of our esteemed colleagues at the General Federation of NGOs are willing to embark on such efforts. Others feel that they can use their time more productively working on more familiar topics.

Third obstacle

In this country, we are in a dire need to specialize. To address a topic as multi-faceted as family empowerment, a journalist needs to be aware of the body of information on this subject. He or she must read books, go over reports and studies about families in general, and family empowerment in particular, so as to enrich their knowledge and background and enhance the level of their final product. This is true whether they work for television, radio, websites, or the print media. I would even suggest that media organizations offer some specialized training courses on family dynamics and family empowerment.

Another question might be: “What are the topics that journalists should tackle when they report on family empowerment?”

  1. Highlight the value of tolerance and affection in strengthening family bonds If parents and children learn, inside or outside the family, that the relationship between family members should be based on the value of affection which is stipulated by all religions, and that love is the eternal value that could ensure the happiness of families, they would be kinder to one another. Also, tolerance and affection grant family members the feeling of being reassured and brings them a peaceful state of mind. These noble values require special attention by our senior writers for we need their experience and power of persuasion in our efforts to empower Egyptian families.
  2. Focus on creating a harmony among the different family roles Media professionals must focus on creating a harmony among different roles within family. They must search for the roots and references of integration between the role of male and female heads of household, especially now that wives are playing an increasing role in supporting the families. Everybody should be aware that children and youth in a family represent the future care of their parents when they get old.

Youth should always remember the words of God: {And your Lord has decreed that you worship none but Him. And that you be dutiful to your parents. If one of them or both of them attain old age in your life, say not to them a word of disrespect, nor shout at them but address them in terms of honour.} (17 – Al Isra’a :23)

How badly we are in need to follow these holy words and to see them as the basis of daily inter-action between children and their parents

Ladies and gentlemen…

The role of the media in tackling the issue of “family empowerment” and other social issues is a task worthy of the best efforts of media professionals. Whereas a politician might address hundreds in the parliament and a professor might address thousands at a university, a writer or a broadcaster can reach out to literally millions all over the country.

Allow me to end this talk by saying that now more than ever we need to hold on to our faith in this country and to “think of what we can do for Egypt, not of what Egypt can do for us”.

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