African Journalists Commit to Unite to End Gender Violence in Africa

By Patricia Namutebi

African Journalists have committed to unity to end GBV. This was at the recently concluded two-day conference between 30th November and 1st December organised by Awim (African Women in Media) at the Marriott Hotel in Kigali, Rwanda.

A number of topics intensively discussed resulted into the Kigali declaration on the elimination of gender based violence in and through media in Africa.

Why Gender Violence?

Article one of the universal declaration of human rights by the UN General Assembly states that all human rights are born free and equal in dignity in human rights.

Article 2 states that everyone is entitled to all rights and freedom.

Gender Violence continues to remain a global perpetual problem, affecting women more as 1 in3 women experience violence.

There has been a concern about gender violence on society and the workplace continues impede progress towards gender equality. To a great extent this hinders development in society too.

At a time of the 21st Century where Africa needs to catch up with digitalisation, there is an urgent need to combat GBV an enabler of under development.

 African Union’s agenda 2063 says that all forms of violence and discrimination against women and girls should be eliminated.

One of the panellists, Nyarai Sabeka, a media practitioner from Zimbabwe mentions that there is also rampant violence online. Forms of online violence include threats, cyber stalking, misinformation among others, these damages ones reputation.

She continues to note that women therefore are deactivating their accounts to avoid online harassment, which therefore greatly affects women decision making process socially, economically and politically.

Nonhlanhla Ngwenya, a project officer for the media institution of South Africa from Zimbabwe, points out that there’s normally increase in the rate of harassment of journalists especially in the field during election time.

Challenges in the Newsroom

Journalists expressed a number of challenges in the news room.

“Cyber space abuse is an effect of GBV as it instils fear in women through online harassment, surveillance, sexualisation of women, sextortion, body shaming, identity theft among others.” explains Nyarai Sabeka a lecturer at Zimbabwe Open University.

In her presentation Nyarai Sabeka, uses a case study of Zimbabwe. She points out the research by the Zimbabwe electoral Support Network shows that twitter has became a toxic environment for local leaders. A number of women subjected to toxic online abuse in Zimbabwe is reaching worrying proportions.

Joan Letting, a female journalist from Kenya, points out that online violence has a number of consequences that include mental health impacts like anxiety, PTSD and depression. Physical health impacts like self censoring,  leaving of jobs that affects career growth and activity among others.

Apart from the earlier mentioned problems, female journalists also point out some other challenges in media houses inclusive of:

Limited resources because of the broken business model as media houses depend on advertising. This has led to poor and unequal pay.

Limited capacity on the new media trends and constant changes that has contributed to the skills gap.

Gender inequality and equity.

 Efforts to combat Gender based Violence

Nyarai Sabeka calls for revision of laws to govern the social media platforms to cater for general  understanding  of abuse that may not be understood on local African languages.

Rebecca Birungi, a communications specialist and media trainer observes that a lot of online violence is as a result of misinformation.

In her address, she calls upon journalists to stop jumping onto the band wagon to do stories rather fact check all information disseminated online.

Sarah Mawerere, a  producer at UBC Uganda,  in her presentation points out that in Uganda there are several efforts to combat GBV.

She mentions that different stake holders are coming up with research trainings and projects on the same topic. Inclusive of these are the local government, non government organisations like Raising voices, Uganda Women’s network, ministry of Gender, Akinana mama wa Afrika, Uganda women’s network(mama FM) among others.

Mr. Arthur Asiimwe the managing Director Geberal Rwanda Broadcasting Agency advises journalists to forget traditional journalism, be innovative and quickly adopt new technologies if they are to be relevant and communicate effectively in the current digital era.

Some of the Attendee’s take outs

Mutavu Linda(Mount Kigali University Student)

Awim23 opened my eyes as a journalism student. In the field I will not fear as a woman. I will not be intimidated rather I am now brave enough to tell stories on GBV.

Ruqayyah Yusuf, Lecturer Dept. of Information and Media Studies

Bayero University Kano, Nigeria

Back home, I will push for policies in line with the declaration in my country both on Radio and TV.

I will write an academic paper highlighting the need for adoption of the declaration.

I will look for a grant in line with campaigning for adoption of the declaration.

Sarah Mawewere, producer UBC Uganda

I am motivated to be innovative and ensure that I have to keep the fire burning while reporting on issues of GBV in Uganda using my media house.

The minister of Gender Kigali Rwanda Uwamariya Valentine in her speech pledges to collaborate efforts with the media industry, civil society, ngos and the International community. “let us have unity in Africa to amplify voices on GBV!” she emphasised. Honourable Valentine further urges the media to shape narratives and challenge stereotypes to combat GBV. “We as Africans must unite to amplify voices on GBV if we are to contribute to a morally up right society.” She concluded.

Present at the conference were media professionals, members of the civil society and a number of delegates from the international community inclusive of UNESCO, Fojo, Africa-China, Canada, Jhr, Mac Arthur Foundation  Luminate, UN women, Women in News, RBA, WSCJ among others.

The epitome of the conference was the launch of the Declaration for which a number of over fifteen members have committed to sign. Dr. Yemisi Akimbobola called upon media organisations to be part of this declaration.

Herman Nnyanzi

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