An Abuja-based non-governmental organization, TechHer, with support from Ford Foundation, had trained selected journalists from across Nigeria on gender reporting between Friday, March 6 and Saturday March 7 at a hotel in Abuja.
The training workshop according to the organizers, was designed to build capacity for media professionals and ensure balanced, fair reporting and portrayals of women in the media, with about 60 participants.
Coincidentally, the training was coming at a time the world attention was being drawn to need for gender equity and inclusion in government.
One of the available legal tools to address issues of violence against persons is the Violence Against Persons (Prohibition) Act (VAPP) which became a law in May, 2015. The Act was necessitated as a result of agitations for protection of persons against different forms of violence which have in recent times become a reccurring decimal in Nigeria.
Daily, we hear of killing or maiming of spouse; lover pouring acid on an ex-lover; or someone being forcefully taken away from their family and loved ones. It was the need to protect citizens from violence such as these that led to the enactment of the VAPP Act in 2015.
According to UN Women statistics, adult women account for nearly half (49 per cent) of all human trafficking victims detected globally. Women and girls together account for 72 per cent, with girls representing more than three out of every four child trafficking victims. More than four out of every five trafficked women and nearly three out of every four trafficked girls are trafficked for the purpose of sexual exploitation.
Speaking during introduction to gender reporting, one of the Panelists and Data Journalism Teacher, Joshua Olufemi, saw gender reporting as amplifier whenever issues that affect both men and women are to be reported.
To him, “gender reporting amplifies the voices of men and women in issues that relate to them. Make them the sources of the news.
“Think of it as inclusion in your reports. We must beginning to have women voice in our reports. Let also look at things from the point of fact not what the society says.
“The way media construct the narratives is the problem. We report issues without talking about how it affects women. We talk about farming as if it is the only men that are farmers. That must change”, he told participants.
In order to ensure his listeners get his point he gave a few examples, “example of bad gender reporting is when an issue involves husband and wife and you promote one and demote the other. “Don’t say husband divorces wife over….” We can prevent this by using neutral words.
“We can also report gender better by way of doing proper profiling for women. We should not forget that, in media, we don’t just report issues, we also set agenda. We need to promote gender-based issues like rape and domestic violence in our front pages instead of burying such inside”, added.
Another Panelist, Aisha Salaudeen, encourage broadcasters to make do with experts on their programmes.
“Sometimes, we need to learn how to bring experts on our shows which show we know what we are doing. Shows that people will watch and see the reason that we need women as much as we need men in all facet of the economy.
“It is important we do our research before publishing our stories. We have to learn and unlearn to avoid misrepresentation of facts which reduces or takes away credibility”, she noted.
Discussing reporting Gender-sensitive issues like rape, a Multi-talented senior journalist, Lolade Nwanze, frowns at indiscriminate use of pictures of minors by some media houses.
“Minor should be protected at all times especially, when they are victims or survival of a crime”, she restated.
She also talked about dealing with trigger pictures especially in the print and some online media which come without prior warning unlike in television where one sees viewer discretion.
“When gender sensitive stories such as rape is written, the survivor should be the primary consideration. So, using their pictures rather implies justice. Journalism is not fiction.
Journalism is about fact and figure including credibility in stand alone or accompanying pictures.
“We have seen a lot of online stories that lead to offline crises. Journalists should know they are not bloggers though they can blog, ethics of the profession should be constantly flash through our mind each time we sit or stand to write.
“In those days, people find news but today, you take the news to them – Facebook, tweeter, Instagram. But, in all these, professionalism should not be taken for granted”, she added.
Participants at the workshop shared their experiences with Gobroadsheet.com. The Niger State Correspondent of the Nation Newspapers, Justina Asishana said, “the experience has been eye-opening opening to her, “I learnt about not sensationalising and not to further victimize the survivor of abuse.
“Although, a lot of things have been said over the years about gender and reporting through the gender lens, the workshop has given me a different perspective about the gender reporting.
“Hearing the real-life experiences from those who have had the bitter taste of abuse and analysing the past report further enlightened me that I need to do more, to ensure gender balance in all I do as a writer.”
To the Correspondent of West Africa Democracy Radio, Usman Katun Umar, his take away from the workshop was to be constantly conscious of some of the deeply entrenched biases against women,” sometimes, these slip-off happen unconsciously.”
As far as an Online Editor with Voice of Nigeria, Nnenna Okoronkwo, was concerned, the training was essential for every journalist because it would help in promoting effective presentations.
To her, “gender-based issues affect our everyday live and as journalists, we owe it to the society to be unbiased in reporting these issues in order to deviate from stereotyping and promote gender inclusiveness.