If you flip randomly through TV channels, radio stations, and news sites in the hope of finding content that is unique, valuable, and heart-warming, you may just find yourself confronted by something distasteful, a tacky representation of your culture. The current state of regional media is a topic brought up every day, speculating whether it could ever change or progress.
Arabian Media Network (AMN) is an NGO that aims to create a new type of media that not only entertains but also adds meaning and opens doors for new innovations. The renowned organisation has finally announced the launch of yet another new transformational initiative that is set to change the rules of the game.
“The Queen” is a new programme that targets young women, who could become the perfect idol for the next generation to look up to. Ambassador and founder of “Arab Woman” campaign Rehab Zein El-Din is the main advocate and face of the new project, having had experience with previous initiatives to empower women.
Daily News Egypt interviewed Zein El-Din about the programme, her opinion regarding media and Arab women, as well as her hopes for a better future for all women.
Tell us about the new TV programme, The Queen:
The Queen is set to be the biggest format programme in the region. The Arab world has been depending on foreign formats for a long while now. Nonetheless, we believe that we can create our own programmes and formats; we have outstanding local creative minds.
The Queen is the first Arab format programme, developed from scratch in the Arab world. I am certain that the format will be adopted later on by other countries.
It aims to crown a queen of social responsibility. We highly believe that stars and famous icons should not solely be actors or singers but rather be proactive women working to benefit their communities and be recognised for their efforts.
The show is scheduled to air in 16 different Arab countries; each country will have an exclusive TV network, publication, and radio station with the rights to air and publish.
The entities were chosen based on the content they normally share; we wanted to collaborate with those who provide progressive and valuable quality. For example, we chose El-Nahar TV, Nile Television Network, El-Mehwar, and El-Kahera W El-Nas in Egypt since they have always provided the highest quality.
How will the programme evaluate and determine the winner?
The first phase will depend on a huge promo to raise awareness about the programme on all partnering entities. It should attract women between the ages 20 and 40 who have contributed to their society with a voluntary project or act. Each contestant should provide documentation about her project or contribution, as well as its effect on her community.
Any woman who believes that she deserves to be dubbed queen of social responsibility is allowed to contribute and send her file. Later on each country will have its own subsidiary jury that will choose three contestants to go on to the next phase.
The second phase will be in either Lebanon or Egypt, where all the qualified women will compete for the title. AMN is currently in favour of Cairo for two reasons. Firstly, Arabs love visiting Egypt and its monuments and secondly, the presence of such an event and programme will surely prove that Egypt is currently safe and stable.
The final announcements should come this week regarding the venue, episode length, schedule, as well as the jury members.
What do you aim to represent through this programme?
Our programme is independent in its content and schedule and yet we hope that our partner media entities will highlight the three girls that represent their country as well as their projects. Ideally we would love from each country to support its contestants in the way they support other media figures.
The programme’s main aim is to create a different genre of celebrities that aim to build and create better futures for their communities. We will also support the winner in capitalising her project for a greater outcome. Meanwhile, we hope the winner and her initiative will inspire younger generations.
I am the founder of the “Arab Woman” campaign, which focuses on discussing women’s current issues and we aim to constantly empower them and help them prosper.
Therefore, I always search for programmes that empower women and reshape any stereotypes because I believe in the power of media and its contribution to strengthen women’s status in the Arab world. This programme will certainly correct the image of women portrayed in today’s media.
My campaign aims to prove that the misguided characters we see in media are not an accurate representative of real women. Therefore we always try to find and showcase better examples that can truly inspire younger generations.
How would you evaluate the current status of women in media?
The current image broadcasted and circulated is shallow and pale; it simply underestimates women. Media in general – whether drama, TV series, or even commercials – has contributed to minimising women and dragging their status back to pre-historic times.
Media currently portrays women in a sexual context that is never inspiring or dignified. These mistaken stereotypes have lead to the current wave of feminism gaining more popularity, as the Arab world no longer respects or believes in its women due to the media.
Even when media entities aim to focus on women, they represent examples of either weak and harmless individuals or those who followed the least dignified methods to reach where they are.
Why are you keen to work with AMN?
AMN aims to represent a new form of media: proactive media. In addition to choosing content that reflects our Arab values and lifestyles, they also focus on women. In 2008 I worked with them to initiate the Arab Woman campaign, which highlights the main problems women face in our societies as well as suggesting solutions for them.
We also had a programme called “Drama, the White Hands” that discussed a few of the obstacles women face in a dramatic context. The programme visited several Arab countries, where we conducted in-depth research to define the main problems women face in each particular region or country.
They also produced one the biggest TV programs in the Arab region and AMN was recognised by the Guinness World Records at the time. “The Idol Woman” aimed to shine a light on inspiring and successful Arab women worldwide. We all know that one of Obama’s consultants is in fact an Egyptian woman. Meanwhile, there are numerous successful women around the globe that we are not fully aware of. As the host, I travelled around the globe to meet these women. The programme was broadcast on 70 different Arab networks simultaneously.