By Ken Meju
Participants at the media event
In a continuous determined drive to gather enough public support to end gender based violence and sexual right abuse, a coalition of non- governmental organisations under the aegis of the Coalition of Eastern NGOs, CENGOS, Rivers State chapter has sought partnership with the media.
At a one-day media roundtable on Sexual Health and Reproductive Rights (SHRRs) and Gender Based Violence (GBV) in Port Harcourt Monday August 20, journalists were enjoined to widen the spread of the campaign to give it more visibility and cause policy changes to advance the cause.
In a welcome remark kicking off the training, Mr Pascal Anozie, national coordinator of CENGOS represented by the CENGOS Rivers State coordinator, Mrs Dumka Emmah David said the training was part of a programme, “Building Bridges to End Gender-Based Violence and Increase Young People’s Access to Sexual and Reproductive Health Information and Services”, funded by Amplify Change, an international development partner with the aim of empowering young people, men and women to help them realize their sexual and reproductive rights. It is being implemented in conjunction with civil Resource Development Centre, CIRDOCC.
The project is being implemented in Enugu, Anambra, Imo, Abia, Akwa Ibom, Cross River, and Rivers states.
He said CENGOS plans to make GBV more visible through the media and influence society to acknowledge it as a problem that needs to be solved.
“It is our intention to make gender-based violence more visible through the media influencing the society to acknowledge it as a problem and to put pressure on policy makers to legislate against it, and where legislate exists, to enforce such legislation…this training is expected to provide knowledge to the media on sensitive reporting, especially as it concerns gender-based violence that can help survivors and others by providing them with the information they need to protect themselves or others or seek help and justice”.
The CENGOS national coordinator added that training would equip reporters and news managers with necessary skills to grapple with the challenge of reporting GBV in a manner that would not perpetuate gender stereotypes but that informs and encourages public debate while helping them understand sexual rights and health rights, why GBV takes place and its far-reaching consequences for women, families and society.
According to him the building bridges project has already connected with religious and traditional leaders , civil society organizations, as well as service providers including law enforcement agencies, health workers, legal practitioners and other legal aid providers on their respective roles ad functions in addressing GBV.
He urged the media to partner with CENGOS and address GBV from a variety of outlets. “We therefore urge you, the media, to join the movement to end GBV and advance the SRHRs of the youth and women. You can do this through features, analysis and blogs that can provide greater analysis and understanding of the psychologies of gender-based violence in a way that will improve readers understanding of both the actions and reactions of the survivor and the perpetrator”.
In her presentation on Understanding gender based violence and sexual health and reproductive rights, Ms Emem Okon, deputy state coordinator CENGOS Rivers State explained that gender refers to norms and duties ascribed to the sexes by society and its placement of the male sex as more advantaged contributes to reasons for GBV which is mostly against women and girls. She pointed out that every one has a right to choose who to associate with and how, which make sexual rights human rights.
Speaking on sensitive reporting on GBV, Chief Constance Meju, the resource person told the journalists to approach GBV from the perspective of the victim as the wronged rather than painting a picture of trying to find the victim’s role in the abuse.
She stressed the need for respect for the victim, empathy and confidentiality noting that the victim must be made to trust the reporter ad not made to regret opening up as such has forced many victims to hug silence with dire consequences for them and families.
Most importantly, Chief Meju said where necessary crime scenes should not be described in a manner in which the victim can be easily identified to avoid embarrassment for those who would rather not be named.
She also urged journalists not to give up easily while pursuing assault cases especially rape as there are more possibilities of truth than falsehood among reported cases. She also advised them to use existing legal frameworks like the Violence Against People’s Prohibition, VAPP Act, areas in the Nigerian Criminal Procedure, UN1325, existing Rivers State laws like Rivers Abolition of Female Circumcision Law, Dehumanizing and Harmful Traditional Practice Law to help fight to end gender abuses and make the society better.
Participants were drawn from local and national print media, electronic and online media.