"Try to adapt and not adopt because what can be good for Israel may not be good for your country " says Golda Meier Mount Carmel International Training Center (MCTC) director Mazal Renford last Monday, Oct 19 when she welcomed all twenty-five of us from 20 different countries to the International Workshop on Media Srtategies for Social Change in Haifa, Israel.
Amazing to have this much diversity. I haven't been to half of the countries represented in the program. Photo above shows batch # 10 members (front row from left) Pan (Thailand), Charles (Cameroon), Anupa (Nepal), MCTC director Mazal, University of Haifa Media Chair Prof Sondra Rubenstein, Andrew (Malawi), Jamby (Kyrzystan), Khagendra (Nepal), Me (Philippines), Chichi and Grace (Nigeria), Zyann (Philippines), Giang and Thuy (Vietnam), Monika (Albania), Luis (El Salvador), Anna (MCTC), Merkurieh (Ethiopia), Khatuna (Georgia), Toby (Ghana), Pablo (Brazil), Alejandra (Mexico/Guatamela), Mykola (Ukraine), Bhakti (Azerbaijan), Cai (China), Hugo (Peru) and Joyce (China); not in photo are Claud (Chad) and MCTC Workshop Director Michel Khan.
MCTC was founded by the first woman prime minister of Israel, Golda Meier in 1958 when she saw in African countries that women were not part of development. 51 years after, Mazal says that "it is still a laboratory to share experiences because participants become agents of change for the benefit of their country.”
MCTC became the first training center for International Cooperation of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs or MASHAV for short. Its purpose was to train professional women from developing and transitional countries and to provide the necessary tools for women's empowerment. It was only in 1963 when men were accepted in the program upon the request of the then President of Malawi to accommodate four male participants.
The media workshop is an annual program held in cooperation with UNESCO. This year’s batch 10 was from October 19 to 30, 2009. The end goal was to analyze the role of media as a tool for social change, review communication theories and advocacy journalism as tools for changing public opinion, learn to use web 2.0 material and discuss transnational issues affecting participants' home countries.
The approach was "hands-on" training with lectures led by 72-year old Prof. Rubenstein (left photo), Distinguished Professor, School of Communications at University of Haifa and guest lecturers such as Prof. Niv Ahituv (Academic Director, Netvision Institute of Internet Studies and Chair for Research and Information Evaluation in Tel Aviv University), Eran Ketter (Branding Specialist), Yaheli Amit (photojournalist of the top newspaper “Haaretz”), Nir Barav (Producer, Labrador Records), and lastly, the workshop was closed with a geopolitics session with Ambassador Gershon Gan.
Prof. Sondra said she can never be a journalist. She described herself as someone with a lot of biases and a national memory that she can never forget. She was a child of four when the war broke out.
The workshop was interspersed with observation visits which included the holy sites in Jerusalem, Galilee, and Nazareth; Golan Heights; tête-à-tête at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs office in Jerusalem with Andy David (deputy spokesman), Mark Regev (right photo, Prime Minister's Foreign press and Public Affairs adviser) and journalists from Israel Post, channel 2 and Jerusalem Post; a visit in a kibbutz in Beersheba and Dimona; and, a talk and tour with Iri Kassel (director of the Ben Gurion Heritage Institute) at Ben Gurion's memorial in the Negev Desert.
The workshop concluded with the presentation of case studies on specific prevailing transnational issues by each team: territorial disputes (team 1, left photo), global impact of terrorism (team 2), media impact on swine flu (team 3), challenge to prevent violation of human rights in domestic violence (team 4) and global crisis impact on migrant laborers (team 5, photo below).
If it weren’t for the diversity of the team, we wouldn’t have a global perspective of the realities in each countries. The issues presented were timely and relevant especially the impact of migrant laborers coming back home and territorial disputes. There are 11 million overseas Filipino workers representing 11% of the population contributing over 18 billion dollars annually or 13 % GDP. What will happen to the families of these returning workers, will the workers be able to reintegrate back home? What will be the effect on GDP with the decline in remittances? Israel is experiencing contentions at all sides –Golan Heights with Syria over control of the Sea of Galilee, West Bank with Palestine, Gaza with the extremist group Hamas. And of course, the Philippines has its own dispute down South in the province of Mindanao with the militant Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) which has been pushing for a formation of an independent Islamic state.
The net take away of the program is not only the training but the exchange of learnings from each of the participants and through friendship, the possibility of cooperation and collaboration in projects. I strongly suggest that people take this program. The next one is slated in 2010.. The workshop is intended for women and men between the ages of 30 and 50, “who hold positions as journalists, television presenters reporting on socio-economic issues, public relations officers in service, governmental and non-governmental organizations, and planners of media strategies for grassroots organizations.” If you are interested in a scholarship, contact the course director Michel Kahn at firstname.lastname@example.org.