The Publishers’ Perspectives
Over the last few years, African Women in Media has engaged in various work that led us to focus the AWiM23 conference theme on ‘Media and Gender Violence’. Firstly, a joint Fojo Media Institute/AWiM research into the barriers women journalists face in sub-Saharan Africa found sexual harassment to be the second-most shared experience. Perpetrators ranged from bosses to male colleagues, recruitment interviewers, intermediaries between interviewees and interviewers, and news sources.
The forms of sexual harassment included everything from suggestive propositions for a sexual relationship in exchange for work to online sexual harassment and physical assault. And here again, experiences of sex for pay came up, namely the opportunity for those in decision-making positions to use sexual exploitation as a weapon against low-paid women journalists who are desperate to make ends meet. This practice is commonly known as sextortion! This, in turn, led Fojo to work with AWiM to produce a second research focused on the lived experiences of Rwandan women in media. This time, sexual harassment was the most prevalent issue.
Sexual harassment is a significant and multifaceted issue that must be addressed in the industry, and it is not the only form of violence experienced by women journalists. For example, the 2020 UNESCO and International Center for Journalists (ICFJ) global study on online violence against women journalists found that 73% of its respondents have experienced online violence. In our three-year project, Reporting Violence Against Women and Girls, supported by the MacArthur Foundation and the Wole Soyinka Centre for Investigative Journalism, we have found significant gaps in how media report cases of violence against women and girls, and for journalists, the psychosocial impact of reporting such stories, whilst themselves experiencing gender-based violence, many times non-physical violence.
We have trained 75 Nigerian women journalists in reporting VAWG, doing further capacity building around mental health, organisational support in developing gender policies to improve VAWG reporting, and commissioned an investigative story on the under-reported issue of non-physical forms of GBV (see page 18)
These activities and those of our partners and national women in media associations across the continent, with examples from colleagues in Asia, guided our thinking around the theme of ‘Media and Gender Violence’. Recognising the need for much-improved policy and practice around media coverage of GBV and much-needed intervention where gender-related violence experiences of media workers are concerned. We have taken additional steps to work with colleagues across the continent in co-designing the Kigali Declaration on the Elimination of Gender Violence in and through Media in Africa. The Declaration will acknowledge the strides made so far whilst setting the agenda for what needs to happen next.
Together, we can change the narrative where media and gender violence is concerned.
Dr Yemisi Akinbobola, Co-founder and CEO, AWiM
Bamidele Ogunleye, Co-founder and COO, AWiM