Women and girls are more vulnerable to gender-based violence than their male counterparts. Some news reports have revealed the increase of gender-based violence cases during the COVID-19 pandemic. Globally, efforts are being made to fight against this virus, however there’s still more work to be done in addressing gender-based violence (GBV) in the world.
Stories reported on social media and in the news relating to gender-based violence during this pandemic are alarming. Some of the victims of these cases lost their lives in the ordeal. For example, the death of Uwa in Nigeria engendered the #justiceforuwa movement. Also, there was the story of a social media activist for the #BlackLivesMatter movement in America called Toyin, who was sexually abused and later murdered.
Journalists have a major role to play in matters relating to gender-based violence advocacy. They can play an active role in advocating against gender-based violence through any medium available to them. It could be through traditional media like TV and radio or even social media pages.
On Thursday 25th June 2020, we had a twitter chat with seasoned Ghanaian journalist, Nuong Faalong. She is also a gender activist who is passionate about her advocacy. Nuong has worked in this capacity for about 18 years. Her journey started from senior high school where she was a trained peer counselor with Planned Parenthood Association Ghana (PPAG).
The topic for discussion on the twitter chat was “Gender-Based Violence and Women in Media”. The conversation started with Miss Faalong highlighting the importance of the role of journalism in gender-based violence advocacy. She explained that the role of journalists is to inform and educate and the media is powerful in shaping people’s perceptions, thereby influencing their behaviors. She further added that when journalists are uninformed on any topic, they tend to misinform the general public. This makes it important for journalists to first understand that it is their obligation to gain access to the right information to help them dispel ignorance and educate their audience.
Miss Faalong expressed her dissatisfaction at the media in Ghana for not highlighting the increase of gender-based violence cases, especially during the Covid-19 period. Gender-based violence advocacy in the media according to her should not be the sole responsibility of female journalists. She believes male journalists should involve themselves. She shared her experience of working with some male journalists who are also sensitizing and educating people about gender-based violence and the need for everyone to be involved in this advocacy work.
4. In Rwanda, Mozambique, India, etc, men are active advocates against GBV. What prevents Ghanaian men and Ghanaian journalists from being agents of change in the issues that largely confront women? #VizChat #SDG5 https://t.co/q6IuIolsQT— Nuong Faalong (@nuongfaalong) June 25, 2020
Journalists must always seek the right information when reporting on gender-based violence cases. Miss Faalong disagreed on the assumption that female journalists are biased in their reporting because most victims of gender-based violence are females. However, a female journalist can be biased in reporting on gender-based violence cases when she fails to do research to know the facts of the case.
The way media houses report on GBV cases is very important. Journalists must be cautious of their language and the kind of information they give out. Some local stations are unethical when reporting on GBV cases. Some of these radio hosts are fond of embellishing the stories with humorous statements when reporting on cases such as defilement, rape or assault. She said it was unfair for journalists to add to the trauma of victims when they infuse humor into their reporting. She added, “It’s unnecessary humor that contributes to a culture of violence and rape. Humour normalises crime and we cannot accept that”.
4. It makes me uncomfortable that anybody thinks it is necessary to laugh at these issues. We find local radio stations using crude language to report rape and violence, these practices must be approached with contempt. #VizChat #SDG5 @TheMFWA #GBV https://t.co/YCiQFE3C4e— Nuong Faalong (@nuongfaalong) June 25, 2020
Miss Faalong said there were challenges female journalists encounter in their line of work which were exclusive to them. She listed some challenges such as sexual harassment, discrimination, ageism, unequal salary, infantization and unfavorable working conditions. She emphasized infantization, where the work and opinions of female journalists are dismissed as juvenile or emotional. This act in most cases may appear subtle but is prevalent and damaging to the credibility of female journalists and their work. She recounted an incidence in which some male colleagues shut her up during meetings by telling her that she was being emotional. She linked this attitude to some negative practices prevalent in the African traditional setting where women and girls have their opinions and concerns dismissed as childish and consequently causing them to be silent.
Recounting her experience with sexual harassment from people she has interviewd and her colleagues, Miss Faalong said she has experienced unwelcomed contact from some men. Some either touched her inappropriately and others expressed interest in having a sexual relationship with her. She added that it happens to most women and she was no exception.
Online abuse is one other topic Miss Faalong stated she frequently encountered. She shared that some people attack her when they disapprove of something she shared on radio or television. Some even go to the extent of cursing her. Nevertheless, she acts professionally by ignoring such abusive statements but she reports instances of threats to the police and her lawyer and she always documents such encounters.
In conclusion, Miss Faalong shared her opinion on how male journalists can be sensitized to use their platforms to advocate against GBV. She said that male journalists should be involved in conversations on GBV and they must be seen as partners in the movement and not liabilities. She further explained that GBV advocacy should not be looked at from an angle of warfare but advocating against regressive norms and practices in society.
These were final words:
“Gender-based violence translates into a negative effect on society so when journalists fail to transmit that message, the nation suffers”.