TEDxUIMPWomen - Rosa María Calaf

Uploaded by TEDxTalks on 16.12.2011

Good Evening Good Morning,
It really depends on who is watching us throughout the world
Their “time” is different
Because our clocks that mark the hours, it is obvious that they are not the same
Just like the world we live in, is not the same
And it is for that reason that we are all here today
In a way, this is an explicit gesture
Precisely against that systemic and global inequality
And particularly against gender discrimination
I also want to say
It is a little strange for me to talk about myself
Because I believe that in this profession
“Careful with conceit“
I don't like this much, because I have always believed that a journalist
should never be the protagonist
He is no more than a witness He is no more than bridge
As I mentioned earlier Between reality and people
In other words
We are simply the middle men serving the community
That is all
Alright, but since I have been asked to speak about my experiences
I will start with the “Once upon a time…“
A girl, about 5 or 6 years old
During summer vacations, outside of Barcelona
In the afternoons would take the bus to go play with her friends
from neighboring towns of “La Costa Brava”
In 60 years and 170 countries later, this girl, is me
Those trips, were my first trips on my own
Because back in the day you could do that, as you may know
They would drop me off at the bus stop and the driver
would make sure to drop me off in the next town over.
I have decided to start this talk like telling a tale
it is because sometimes I have the sensation that my life
is and has been like a tale.
It has been like a dream come true
But it has to be acknowledged, that dreams must be chased after
And that one must learn how to overcome that fear of the unknown
That is something that I was able to do
because I feel like I was fortunate to be born in a wonderful family.
In every sense of the word
A very active mother A very modern mother for her times
A father who was a great reader Both of them were avid music lovers
A grandfather who was a traveled business man
In the early 1900s he traveled to India
Then he went to the United States Traveled around Europe
And when he would come back from his travels
He would tell me stories about real life characters
Real life adventures
So it is no surprise to me that when I was younger
And I was asked what I wanted to be when I grew up
I would say I wanted to be an explorer
To some extent I have been Professionally and personally
Almost “strictu sensu” In the year 1970… something,‘73
At the beginning of the 70s
I drove all the way from Barcelona to Cape Town
It took me more than year, 70,000 kilometers
20 something countries
Obviously, this had much to do with exploration
And I must confess that sometimes when I think about it today
I feel a bit of envy towards myself
I met a shaman in Kariyangue,
when the country was still known as Rhodesia
Who without knowing me,
directly said “You don’t eat meat”.
The Spanish priest who served as my translator had lived there for many years
To be honest I was a little shocked, and well I said “Yes I don’t eat meat.”
So he said to me
“You shouldn’t eat it ever, because it is taboo for you,
and by doing this your protector spirits will not
abandon you” Well, I have not had meat since
Well I guess the spirits must still be here
because I can’t complain about how my life has gone
And so these things happen,
I also believed that here in my country,
I have also been an explorer or even a pioneer
I was probably the first woman journalist on the streets with a microphone
When the first systems of mobile radio arrived in Spain
especially in Barcelona
It was not for women, this profession of international communication
Yet, this was what I wanted to do, maybe what I had always wanted to do
I can tell you now that there is no comparison to today
When I find fellow young women colleagues
who tell me that I opened this path for them
That I have a been a guide to them, who have also become journalists
Having seen me since they were young
And even some women who have nothing to do with this profession
But who have said to me that have seen the world
Or have decided to do certain things in their lives
Because they have seen my “success”
Yet this appreciation is overshadowed,
I would like to quote the director of the New York Times, Jill Abramson
Because she is the first woman director of the New York Times
The first woman director of distinguished newspaper in the world
This appreciation will be no longer be overshadowed
When we stop using the term
“first woman” who has done this or that And in that case
then it will be completely perfect for me
In the “closed-minded” Spain of Franco's dictatorship
A Spain of social backwardness Of economic backwardness
I had possibilities that very few women had at the time
It would have been unforgivable not to take advantage of these
I was able to attend a co-ed private school
There were only two in Barcelona at that time
In the summer I studied abroad I attended college
And most importantly, I was able to choose what I wanted to do with my life
With no pressures, no family pressures, no social pressures, not even economic,
In a time in which this was almost not possible
You can’t possibly imagine how many times
I have found myself getting teary eyed
When I witness the injustice that spreads throughout the world
Which women have had to face Especially little girls
I will always remember a face,
a perplexed little girl in a small town in Pakistan
A fellow journalist asked her what she wanted to be when she grew up
The little girl was totally puzzled
I suppose that she was thinking if choosing
what she wanted to be when she grew up was even an option for her
I am telling you this because
In my case, in my home and my family
I was always told, that I couldn't set myself limits
And that the only limit was respect towards others
That one cannot be ashamed of our capabilities
but that we must know how to maximize them
That was something that I was thought in school
That one can alter those established ideals so that we can live our lives
I was taught that in the 60s, '68 In protests rallies at my university
All these teachings, I treasure them greatly
Specially a phrase by Eleanor Roosevelt
Which said that “no one can make you feel inferior without your consent”
I studied law, so there were very few women in my classes
I wanted to be a diplomat
because I thought it would be a way of bringing together
The world outside of Spain that satisfied me and liberated me,
with that Spain that oppressed me and
angered me greatly I later studied journalism, by chance
Well I loved making end of the year speeches in high school
I liked to ask questions, to write, to comment, listen etc, etc.
I think that it was my talkativeness that ultimately led me to establish
myself professionally in the world of audio-visual media.
And through travels I learned about what's different
And I learned that one must experience something in order to understand it
And that ultimately, there is no human activity
with such great potential to modify perception and believes.
About others and ourselves.
It is that excitement of discovery
It is that excitement of discovering oneself and discovering others
That is the magic of traveling
It is something that I greatly encourage, and that it is done from a very early age
Kipling used to say that there are two types of people
The ones that travel and the ones that stay at home
So I realized that if I really wanted to bring together
what was so distant and different
In other words, talk about the world so that people would know
Because most of us would agree that since the beginning of time
Keeping people from “knowing” is a way to dominate them
So, if I wanted to do all those things
It would be best to be a journalist than being a diplomat
So I decided that I was going to make the world my home
And I was going to make it my motto
That silence is heavy like lead and that words are golden
I set myself the goal of trying to integrate in my stories
a certain level of humanity, of familiarity
By capturing those gestures of life, looks, colors, etc.
Basically all of these things that I brought up tonight
I tried to learn how to play a bit with irony
As a an aid to the retelling of my stories and be more
direct and simple in order to circumvent censorship and controls
I set myself to think and seek for something beyond
To always maintain that element of surprise and that desire to succeed
Furthermore, I planned to never lose sight of the situation of women
To inform, from my vision as a woman.
And to also, to be myself
Or in other words, not to adapt myself to a man's role
You can't do this How many times
was I told that I would have to drink and smoke, stay out at night, etc, etc.
If I wanted to be accepted by my colleagues
Well it doesn't have to be this way
Because after 29 years , I have yet to smoke or drink
I don't even drink wine
I have stayed out, well the necessary, well I have enjoyed it
It wasn't easy though
Being a woman in a field dominated by men
And much less, accepting women in such roles
With a weight in society not seen before
And in reality, today in the 21st century
There are very few women who are experts, pundits, decision makers, etc, etc.
Generally, people interviewed are men
Women are usually portrayed as victims and
more and more in second class positions related to beauty,
fashion, cooking, etc, etc.
Throughout history, this has always been the case
Women's roles were private while men's role were public
There was a hierarchy, the public was more important than the private
In reality, women who have not obeyed this boundary throughout history
have been considered as deviations to the normal
As an intriguing concubine or as a dominating empresses
For example, in China, emperors' terrible
actions were justified because they were “blinded” by women
This continues to happen, and as the presenter mentioned,
for example in journalism Which is what I'm talking about
But there are also more women within the “troops” not in command
Because we are thought not be able and capacitated
There is still a constant need to prove ourselves
I remember Anna Politkovskaia, all of you shall remember who she is
A Russian colleague who was an expert in Chechnya
who was assassinated in Moscow
She always said that she wasn't sent to Chechnya
because of her knowledge of the conflict
But rather because she was the only one in her news team that didn't drink
So this is what led her to go to Chechnya
I want to speak about another memory In my beloved Argentina, in '89
I went to establish a branch of Spanish Television
In the moment that I went to sign the deal for equipment and installation etc
I talked for a little bit with the representative
of the company selling the equipment
He looked at me and asked “Isn’t your boss (a man) coming to sign"
We are talking about the year 1989.
If this happens in countries as modern as ours
Imagine what happens in countries less developed than ours
However, I would be dishonest if I were to say
that I encountered many of such instances in my professional trajectory
Yes, I did have the typical
"You looked pretty on TV" as validation for my work
To this day, young women in my field,
are still seen this way
Because they are always called on as "young lady"
and "beautiful" even on television
While covering news on important conflicts
Still I can't say that I faced opposition in my path
Rather, executives (men) of Spanish television
supported me and my career
and inevitably this facilitated things for me
I feel like the fair attitude of these executives
I suppose that if they are added to my DNA
as an apprentice and of wanderer nomad which I have within me
And well, without being falsely modest
It was my enthusiasm, my tenacity, intuition, dedication
and desire and my formation
And inevitably lots of luck
Was what made up all these things that took me down the right path
Flexibility and adaptability is essential as well
I'm going to tell you an anecdote with regards to this
I was on my way back home to Barcelona when an earthquake occurred in Indonesia
Immediately I decided to pack up and go there
I called the office in Hong Kong so that the my team
would go to Indonesia and meet me there the next
day on Sunday at the location of the earthquake
And so I told them to bring me the “earthquake” luggage
because it was equipped with what was
necessary for these circumstances when you have to make last minute arrangements
With clothes, medicine, water filters, breathing masks, cans of food, etc. etc.
So we arrived and fortunately there were less deaths that what was projected
And so by Tuesday, tension had died down
and Madrid (headquarters) called on us to go back home
The previous Sunday, violence had broken out
in the island of Timor which was relatively close
And so we decided to go to Timor to check out what was going on
We passed by the capital, Jakarta to reach the airport
and we called the secretary to bring the luggage for conflict coverage
Because the one for earthquakes was of no use to us anymore
The other luggage had helmets, bullet proof vests, etc, etc.
We arrived to Timor on Wednesday
and we covered the conflict until Thursday
because the UN had intervened to settle down the area
And so it seemed that everything was under control
and the area was no longer of interest
From headquarters we were informed
that it was the birthday of the King of Thailand on Saturday
And that Queen Sofia was going to attend,
so we had to do a piece on the event
As you may have guessed already,
that the luggage for conflicts was not apt for covering royal ceremonies
So the luggage for "Queen" had to be sent over to Bangkok
All of these events lasted about a week
What I'm trying to get at is that You have to have the ability to adapt
and most importantly is how ephemeral news are now a days
I spent 13 years between Barcelona and Madrid
In all kinds of shows
Which were a very valuable preparation for the years that I would spend abroad
And I had the great opportunity to be present in a New York of Ronald Reagan
In a Moscow of Mikhail Gorbachev In a Buenos Aires of Carlos Menem
In a Rome of Berlusconi, during his first term, and of Pope John Paul II
In a Vienna of the post-Berlin wall world
In a Hong-Kong recently returned to the Republic of Chinese
And finally in a Peking of the summer Olympics
I feel extremely fortunate
Tremendously grateful because they have been years of endless learning
And of being able to witness history in the making
With the yearning of being able to retell it by making a difference
Making a difference for the more the better
And throughout the places that I have been in
Focusing on the world of women
I have noticed that the only equality
that has been achieved is in the inequality
At the same time I have noticed that
there is still this great capability of sacrifice, determination
Of so many women who seek to change the future
I have seen activists in India with their campaigns
on the streets against female feticide
What happens is that there is a preference for male newborns
Yearly there are roughly 2 million abortions of female fetuses in India
In Cambodia there are those women who face the immorality
and corruption of the authorities
Who look the other way and charge when
little girls 5 years old are sold to be violated
Because there are a certain group of Chinese and Vietnamese
who consider that violating young girls bring good luck in life and business
So activists try to rescue them and educate them, etc, etc.
I have seen the courage of Pakistani women
who denounce the killings and disfiguring with acids to
women whose fathers, husbands, brothers decide that they have deserved it
And even sometimes their mother-in-laws
Afghan women, have refused to let schools close the doors to young girls
Or fellow women journalists who in Afghanistan or Iraq
can't tell their children that they are journalists
Because it is so dangerous
And that when they leave their houses in the morning,
they don't know if they will see their children at night
Or women journalists in Mexico,
of whom you have probably heard of already
Who are in battle, a dangerous battle, facing the serious threat of death
For that reason, what has been discussed here in this TEDx,
is what journalists have to communicate
You know that you have a duty,
you feel the anguish of knowing
that you are the eyes and ears of those who can't be there
But you are also the voice of the vulnerable
ones who normally would not be heard if you don't do it for them
Many times people asked me if being a woman has been a disadvantage
For example, in situations of tension and conflict
Sometimes it does because it is challenges you
by not being able to be on your own in certain circumstances
Having to go dressed in a certain manner
Perhaps with a veil or more covered
You don't have access to certain places
There are people who don't want to be interviewed by women
Patriarchalism, religious fundamentalism are machista in nature
For example I had to interview Rafsanjani
the then president of the Iranian parliament
I had to interview him without facing him,
I wasn't allowed to along those lines,
Nevertheless, it has its advantages because
In a way, if you are not acknowledge it means that you are ignored
Which means that you are able to move freely without being noticed
For example, in Chechnya, controls for men journalists than for women
We could go through and no one would asks us anything
In South America, in those patriarchal societies
What happens is that there is that need to
protect us as if they were helping us because we are helpless
In Islam there is the fantastic possibility of entering a woman's world
To know what happens to them and for them
to tell you how their society works from their point of view
Women are the support of society
This entails, a better and greater access to information
than a male journalist will never have
Who would only be able to speak with men in the Muslim world
And who will only be told about those things
that they want to talk about or their official version
Inevitably, in the cases of women who have been abused
Women who have suffered violence, etc etc
They trust women and will tell them much more
So we should take advantage of these circumstances
and look at the bright side
And disregard the bad and try to move on forward
Another common question is regarding risk
It always upsets me when the risk
that international women journalists
take by covering dangerous conflict is praised
When in reality what has to be praised
is the real risk taken by local women journalists,
the civil population, local women and young girls
Because we also take the risk, it is part of our profession
No one forces us to be there and we can leave at will
For that reason it really does not have much merit
Simply, we must remember what is happening to those populations
and those colleagues (women) who can't leave at will
We must concentrate in being empathetic
Let's try to put ourselves in their shoes
In humility, respect towards the victims
Sometimes even protect them from themselves
because in a state of extreme vulnerability
They are unable to realize
by themselves of the magnitude of the risk that they are taking
For example in the earthquake of Sichuan in China
When you interviewed the parents
of those kids in the schools who were completely destroyed
And next to the debris of the school stood
the home of the leader of a political party, or theheadquarters for the town,
in perfect condition with just a scratch
Inevitably these parents would protest and accuse
the government of corruption and misgovernment etc etc
This meant excellent news stories but what happened later
was that the Chinese government would repress these parents
Who is the one who has to become aware of this,
the journalist You are the one who must not put them in that situation
You have to talk to them and get their stories
but in a manner in which they can't be identified
And without people around so that they won't be denounced later
All of this responsibility, which should start with our ethics and common sense
a sense of protection of others, the most vulnerable
Which is your objective
The only goal of the media is to create a better world for everyone
and that means starting by helping those in need
For that reason, what must never be done in these situations
And to prioritize that impacting result (of the story)
Which will be greatly appreciated because since the audience
has been wrongly accustomed to that kind of impact
In other words a journalism of scandal
That journalism seeking to attract attention
at the expense of everything and anything
Journalism that is professional, responsible and committed and ethical
I suppose that I have gone over my allotted 18 minutes
Well I believe that we can conclude by saying that challenges will never cease
When you close a door and you say it's done,
it turns out that you find that another one recently opened
When I started journalism in college
They demanded that we “define” ourselves
So I said that I was restless, curious and insatiable
That was a long time ago, yet I'm still the same
Because I believe that there are many stereotypes
Too much "silence" that we must fight against
And most importantly we have to support these women
Who are real examples of what we are living today and much more
Surely, this is something that affects us all
I suppose we can all agree on that.
So spread the word. Thank you very much.