New Telegraph

When journalists learnt enhanced sexual reproductive health and rights’ reporting

Vision Spring Initiatives (VSI), a not-for-profit, national human rights organisation, recently held training for selected reporters and editors drawn from different media organisations and states across Nigeria. The training was held in Lagos, with the theme: “Intersectionality of Rights in Media Reporting.” The training was to equip media practitioners with the capacity and capability of reporting sensitively and professionally on issues relating to Sexual Reproductive Health and Rights and Gender-based Violence (GBV).

Five winners

The lively and interactive training also witnessed five young ladies emerging as winners in the essay and poem competition on GBV organised by VSI. The training started with Mary Udoh of VSI talking about the major focus and activities of the organisation and also the aims and objectives of the media training. According to her, VSI is a duly registered NGO partnering with strategic stakeholders to achieve the developmental rights of children, young people, marginalised groups and other groups made vulnerable by laws and policies. “VSI is supporting their attainment of these rights using a multipronged approach and diverse strategies,” said Udoh. She added: “The violation of the rights of women and girls is pervasive across all spheres of life in Nigeria, including sexual and gender-based violence. Gender equality is undermined by patriarchal systems and beliefs that favour the interests of men above those of women. “Due to socio-cultural norms that are shown through discrimination and stigmatisation, young women living with HIV, with disabilities and displaced girls face greater challenges accessing health care. VSI is one of the 11 organisations partnering with HIVOS on the ‘We Lead’ project to support the rights of marginalised girls between the ages of 18-30. “We lead intervention in Nigeria is centred on the realisation that young women and adolescent girls’ sexual reproductive health and rights (SRHR) are not recognised and respected. It also recognises that factors such as gender norms, myths and misconceptions, stigma and discrimination, increased displacement due to climate change, closing spaces, lack of awareness of SRHR, lack of funding, and limited opportunities for inter-generational leadership continue to hamper the achievement of SRHR for young women in Nigeria. “To respond to some of the challenges enumerated above, the organisation is hosting a series of interventions such as building capacities of right holders to effectively engage in advocacy with duty bearers as a means of improving access to SRHR in Nigeria.”


The Project Director of Vision Spring intiatives, Ngozi Nwosu-Juba said the NGO has done a lot through advocacy, empowerment, education and training on gender equality, girl-child and SRHR. She urged journalists to report more on these issues to draw the attention of the government, stressing that nobody should be discriminated against in Nigeria. A media facilitator, Barr. Omolara Oriye, speaking on the theme: “Intersectionality of Rights in Media Reporting,” advised journalists to be gender sensitive by avoiding the use of stereotypes in their portrayal of women, sensationalistic and blown-up titles, which highlight the brutal details in their accounts about violence against women. Journalists, said Oriye, should focus on investigative stories that paint a bigger picture of the phenomenon of violence against women, its causes and consequences. She added: “Media must assume a more active role in the prevention of violence against women and always keep in mind the effects of their stories when this type of violence is concerned.” Oriye urged that journalists should report issues on SRHR professionally to help put the subject into perspective and change negative and retrogressive cultural norms. The lawyer further said: “We recognise SRHR as an advocacy issue and the media being a key partner in driving this agenda. In Nigeria, gender relations are characterised by unequal power relations that are dominated within a culture of shared beliefs, values, customs and behaviours. “It is within culture that women and girls face violations and discrimination of their SRHR. Culture is a learning process which changes over time and journalists can play a huge role in changing social thinking and attitudes to enable women and girls to achieve human development and lead long healthy lives where their rights are respected. “The media advocacy on access to SRHR will lead to the abandonment of discriminatory practices and encourage policies and practices that will enable women to take control of their SRHR by expressing their demands and finding solutions to their problems.”

Mass media

She explained that the mass media in Africa has an excellent potential to promote good sexual and reproductive health outcomes through consistent coverage, stressing: “Given their ability to disseminate information in a broad, timely, and accessible manner, the mass media constitute an important source of information for the general public and policymakers.” According to Oriye, poor sexual and reproductive health is a persistent and major problem in developing countries, adding that UNFPA had stated that illnesses and deaths from poor reproductive health account for one-fifth of the global burden of disease. She also noted that the media often failed to prioritise SRHR issues or accurately report them. She opined that in sub-Saharan Africa media coverage of reproductive health issues was poor due to the weak capacity and motivation for reporting these issues by media practitioners. Diving deep into the discussion on Intersectionality, the lawyer explained that Kimberle Crenshaw described intersectionality as the ways that different forms of injustice intersect in ways that compound experiences of discrimination and violence. Oriye continued: “Intersectional analysis provides that we should not understand the combining of identities as additively increasing one’s load, but instead as producing substantively distinct experiences. “In other words, the intention is not to demonstrate that one group is more victimised or privileged than another, but to reveal meaningful distinctions and similarities to overcome discrimination and put the conditions in place for all people to fully enjoy their human rights. “Intersectionality is a lens, a prism, for seeing how various forms of inequality often operate together and exacerbate each other. We tend to talk about race inequality as separate from inequality based on gender, class, sexuality, or immigrant status. Intersectionality recognises that people’s lives are shaped by their identities, relationships and social factors. “Without an intersectional approach, the global pledge to leave no one behind will remain aspirational. Understanding the importance of intersectionality will lead us to ask ourselves who is left behind, why and under what circumstances. “It identifies hidden structural barriers and supports an understanding of how individual experiences differ, even within already marginalised or underrepresented groups. Failure to examine these elements risks undermining the achievement of the 2030 Agenda and the perpetuation of intersectional inequalities.” Oriye said that the role of the media includes, shaping public discourse on child marriage, whereby the media informs people about important issues and helps shape how child marriage is spoken about and understood by the public. She stated that films and documentaries for example can challenge the perception that child marriage is something which only occurs in Asia or Africa, and has the potential to hold local and global decision-makers accountable. She noted: “The media adds a human face to the issue. Hearing and understanding things from a young girl’s perspective encourages empathy in a way that research and facts are unable to. By using stories with emotional and personal content we can show the public and decision-makers that girls aren’t numbers, they are people. “The media often acts to hold decisionmakers to account for fulfilling their responsibilities to protect and uphold the public’s welfare. This can be achieved through praise and critique. For example, a media outlet can praise a government’s actions when it does good things for girls, such as increasing the minimum age of marriage or adopting a national strategy on child marriage. Still, it can also call them out for a lack of action. “Advocacy and reinforcing positive perceptions by choosing to cover a particular story the media may be advocating a particular viewpoint, and through the language used there can be the risk of reinforcing perceptions that child marriage is something which occurs only in certain countries, religions or communities. They are portraying girls ethically and responsibly not telling stories which take away a girl’s agency or make her seem like a passive victim. “Girls and women must be informed about where and how their own stories will be told and crucially must give their consent beforehand. If a journalist cannot completely protect the privacy and consent of the individual, they shouldn’t be telling the story. Ideally, a journalist should also return to visit the woman or girl and follow up on the story.”

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