UN Women and the African Union Commission launch a Network of Reporters on Women, Peace and Security in Africa
Date: Wednesday, November 16, 2016
Group photo of the workshop participants. Photo:UN Women/Martha Wanjala
Addis Ababa: UN Women Ethiopia Country Office and the Office of the Special Envoy of the AUC Chairperson on Women, Peace and Security, launched a network of reporters on women, peace and security, following a two-day capacity building workshop on Gender-Responsive Reporting in Conflict, Post-Conflict and Fragile settings in Africa from 18-19 October 2016.
The network of reporters comprises editors, journalists and bloggers from newspapers, radio and television networks that cover conflict-affected countries and regions from sixteen African countries including Burundi, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of Congo, Egypt, Ethiopia, Kenya, Libya, Mali, Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Somalia, South Sudan, Tunisia and Uganda. The two-day workshop sought to build the capacity of reporters to promote gender-responsive reporting that portrays women in the multitude of roles that they assume, particularly as change agents, in conflict and post-conflict contexts.
During her opening remarks, H.E. Ms. Bineta Diop, Special Envoy of the AUC Chairperson on Women, Peace and Security, stated “we want you to be part of our voices in peacekeeping and peacebuilding. Be agents for change and bring visibility to issues of women’s participation in peace processes and conflict resolutions.” Shortly thereafter, in delivering her own opening remarks, UN Women Representative to Ethiopia, African Union and Economic Commission for Africa, Ms. Letty Chiwara, reinforced these views and called on the media to “move beyond the traditional portrayal of women as victims” and to bring to the fore stories of women’s leadership activities in conflict prevention and peacebuilding.
Ambassador Lazarous Kapambwe, H.E. Ms. Bineta Diop and Letty Chiwara during the workshop. Photo:UN Women/Martha Wanjala
While the two-day workshop presented an opportunity for the media practitioners to learn about gender-responsive reporting, it was also an occasion for these experts to share real-life examples of the challenges that they face when reporting in conflict, post-conflict and fragile situations and when attempting to cover women’s stories. They were also able to impart best practices and lessons learned on these experiences. Other highlights from the workshop included role playing where participants re-enacted reporting scenarios followed by a critique session. A spirited debate, on whether the media was part of the solution or the problem was also held; and, a poll taken at the closing revealed that the vast majority of participants felt that the media was part of the solution.
In reflecting on the relevance of the training, renowned journalist from Egypt, Shahira Amin, commended the workshop and committed to always remain gender-sensitive in her work. “This workshop has sounded the alarm because of the fact that we do not have enough women voices in the media. I will put this into consideration in every news article and feature story that I do” said Shahira. Prince Charles, a journalist from Nigeria, also echoed these sentiments stating that “there is need for journalists to start changing the African Narrative in their stories. This will be done by equal representation of both men and women in the media.” And, from Cameroon the reporter, Josiane Kouagheu, voiced her views expressing that the workshop taught her about “the experiences of others, but most importantly, I learnt that there is another way to tell stories in conflict zones. There will be something that is going to change in my next reporting once I get back to Cameroon…I will try to find these little, untold success stories.”
The two-day workshop was followed, on 20 October, by the African Union Peace and Security Council Open Session on the role of the media in enhancing accountability on women, peace and security commitments in Africa. A representative of the newly established network was invited to present a communiqué on behalf of the group, in which the reporters committed to work through the network to promote gender-responsive reporting; push for justice, and broader accountability for women, peace and security commitments; and raise awareness and sensitize citizens through their reporting. The network also expressed in the communiqué concern about the safety and security of media personnel across the continent, particularly that of women journalists, and noted the increasing pressure on freedom of expression and censorship efforts in many contexts-including on social media, and the need for access to information. They stressed the importance of an enabling environment for the media to play a positive role as agents of peace.
Ms. Letty Chiwara addressing the African Union Peace and Security Council during the Open Session. Photo:UN Women/Martha Wanjala
UN Women engaged in this initiative in the context of its regional project on African Women Changing the Narrative: Our Story. The project, which is supported by the Austrian Development Agency (ADA), aims to build a movement of Africans and global citizens who recognize African women as agents of change and promote their engagement and participation as key in achieving Africa’s transformation and development. To this end, the program will launch a digital platform, in early 2017, that will support these efforts and showcase African women in the multitude of roles that they play in shaping Africa’s development within the 2063 and 2030 agendas.