African journalists commit to unity to end gender violence in Africa at AWiM conference

(Last Updated On: 5 December 2023)

Kigali I African journalists have committed unity to ending gender violence (GV) in Africa. The commitment was reached at the recently concluded 2-day conference held from November 30 and December 1, 2023.

The conference, held at Marriott Hotel in Kigali, Rwanda, was organized by African Women in Media (AWiM).

A number of topics were intensively discussed – resulting in the Kigali Declaration on the elimination of gender violence or GBV in and through media in Africa.

Why GBV?

Article One of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights by the UN General Assembly states that all human beings are born free and equal in dignity in rights.

Article 2 of the same Declaration states that everyone is entitled to all rights and freedoms… However, GBV continues to remain a global perpetual problem, affecting women more as 1 in 3 women experience violence.

There has been a concern about gender violence in society and workplaces continue to impede progress towards gender equality. To a great extent, this hinders development in the society too.

In the 21st Century where Africa needs to catch up with digitalization, there is an urgent need to combat GBV, an enabler of underdevelopment.

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

At the Kigali conference, one of the panelists, Nyarai Sabeka, a media practitioner from Zimbabwe mentioned that there is also rampant violence online. “Forms of online violence include threats, cyberstalking, and misinformation, among others. These damage one’s reputation.”

Also read: Female journalists, media houses urged to embrace digital safety and security measures 

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

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

Challenges in the newsrooms

Journalists expressed a number of challenges in their newsrooms. “Cyberspace 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, Sabeka uses a case study of Zimbabwe. She points out the research by the Zimbabwe Electoral Support Network which showed that Twitter (now X) has become a toxic environment for local leaders.

A number of women subjected to toxic online abuse in Zimbabwe are reaching worrying proportions, she told the conference.

Also read: AGOA ban, Gen. Museveni writes to Joe Biden 

Joan Letting, a female journalist from Kenya said that online violence has several consequences that include mental health impacts like anxiety, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and depression.

“Physical health impacts like self-censoring, leaving off jobs that affects career growth and activity, among others.”

Apart from the earlier mentioned problems, female journalists also pointed out some other challenges in media houses, among them limited resources because of the broken business model as media houses depend on advertising. This has led to poor and unequal pay.

The conference also cited limited capacity on the new media trends and constant changes that have contributed to the skills gap, gender inequality and equity.

Efforts to combat GBV

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

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

In her address, she called upon journalists to stop jumping onto the bandwagon –to do story rather than fact-checking all information disseminated online.

Sarah Mawerere, a producer with Uganda Broadcasting Corporation (UBC), in her presentation, pointed out that in Uganda there are several efforts to combat GBV. She mentioned that different stakeholders are coming up with research training and projects on the same topic.

Inclusive of these are the local government, and non-government organizations like Raising Voices, Uganda Women’s Network, Ministry of Gender, Akinana Mama wa Afrika, and Uganda Women’s Network (Mama FM), among others, Mawerere listed known stakeholders.

Arthur Asiimwe, the Managing Director General of Rwanda Broadcasting Agency advises journalists to forget traditional journalism, be innovative and quickly adapt to new technologies if they are to be relevant and communicate effectively in the current digital era.

Some of the attendees’ comments

Mutavu Linda, a student of Mount Kigali University: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 the adoption of the Declaration. I will look for a grant in line with campaigning for adoption of the declaration.”

Sarah Mawewere, producer with 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, Rwanda, Uwamariya Valentine in her speech pledges to collaborate with the media industry, civil society, NGOs and the International community. “Let us have unity in Africa to amplify voices on GBV!”

 Minister Valentine further urged 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 upright society,” she concluded.

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

Present at the conference were media professionals, members of the civil society and several delegates from the international community including UNESCO, Fojo, Africa-China, Canada, Jhr, MacArthur Foundation, Luminate, UN Women; Women in News, RBA, WSCJ, among others.


By Patricia Namutebi

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