Reporting on gender-based violence

With the support of Global Affairs Canada (GAC), JHR trainers continue their work in media development in South Sudan through enhancing the professional skills of experienced journalists in reporting and covering development, human rights and gender equality issues.

By Carolyn Thompson, JHR Trainer in South Sudan

JHR-trainee Mandela Nelson Denis interviews a community nurse about gender-based violence.

The community nurse says she’s treated several patients she suspected were victims of gender-based violence – but most of them would never admit it. “People really need to be given awareness,” she told Juba Monitor reporter Mandela Nelson Denis. “If we keep on talking, it means something good will come.”

Today’s the day for the elimination of violence against women and we just returned from an event celebrating the launch of 16 days of activism to raise awareness.

Mandela, an arts reporter, was already coming to the event to report on the musicians set to perform. We worked together to also report on the human rights story. The Juba Monitor editors are trying to cover more stories focused on gender. A few years ago they had a full page devoted to gender issues, but with the conflict and challenges getting funding, the page has disappeared.

When I arrived in May, I did a month-long media assessment to find out how news was being covered.
Among more than 200 news stories published in the month, just a quarter included any female voice. Only 11 stories had more than one woman. Mandela’s story for tomorrow will have four female sources, and one man.

The event is held in what was meant to be a temporary transit centre before displaced people move back home. Instead, because of the ongoing conflict, many have stayed there, setting up temporary housing and living in immensely difficult circumstances. But today, dozens of people are dancing and singing, before a state government official takes the microphone to appeal for more awareness about gender-based violence.

The woman later tells Mandela the government is coordinating a working group to bring together various groups – police, social workers, NGOs, medical staff – to ensure the message is being spread effectively. The community nurse talks about awareness, while a communications officer with IsraAID tells us awareness can actually be more harmful if there aren’t programs in place when people go to get help. Mandela tells me he’s starting to see how multiple sources make it clear there are many angles and issues that come with this story.

Some of the NGO workers tell Mandela they’re glad he’s there to cover the story. Discussions and publicity are an important part of getting people the help they need. “People are so silent about it because they feel it is a part of their culture,” says a worker with the International Rescue Committee. “Raising a lot of awareness is about breaking such a silence. And people are breaking it up, slowly by slowly.”

 

 

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