Media practitioners and Non-Governmental Organizations engaging media practitioners for their work in Nigeria have been encouraged by gender experts to champion disruptive reportage that would demystify internalized misogyny in our society to enable society act and think progressively while dealing with gender issues.
The Gender experts insisted that there is a nexus between women’s empowerment and media development judging from portrayals and framing of gender issues from multiple media sources society use to access and build opinion on gender related information and knowledge.
The gender experts spoke as resource persons at Owerri Imo state during a two- day intensive media training on ‘’GRFP -Gender Reporting for Media Professional” by TechHerNg in collaboration with Premium Times as supported by Ford Foundation.
The Gender experts were an Actress and Investigative Journalist , Dorothy Njemanze, who is also the founder, Dorothy Njamenze Foundation, a Non-Government Organisation focusing on promoting women and girls’ rights; a gender rights activist and Founder/ Managing Director of PAGED Initiative (Participatory Communication for Gender Development) Ummi Bukar and media trainer and Head of Operations/ Editorial Manager , Digital Division , The Guardian Newspaper, Lolade Nwanze as well as a gender equality expert and Project Lead of TechHerNg, Kawthar Ahmed.
The gender experts exposed to the media practitioners and other trainees the different ways media reports entrench stereotypes and inequalities in the society thus enthroning patriarchy in the society against gender balanced report.
The gender experts further encouraged media practitioners to identify social conditioning and power dynamics and other factors constraining them from telling objective gender stories whenever they want to write in order to do a balanced gender report.
In her contribution, an Actress and Investigative Journalist , Dorothy Njemanze, who is also the founder, Dorothy Njamenze Foundation, a Non-Government Organisation focusing on promoting women and girls’ rights restated that the conscious and unconscious biases of many media people reduces their media reports to masculinist perspectives as either lack of capacity or prejudice against women.
She spoke much about flipping the scripts to place women in same perspective men would be placed while facing the press. She gave so many practical examples that drove the message home, even as she decried the social conditioning of the girl child from birth and creating of boxes every girl child must fit in. She advised that victim’s perspective and choices in sexual violence stories should be paramount and not the aggressor’s perspective but the story line should center on the aggressor’s to shame the aggressor in the society.
Njemanze informed that there would be no need traumatizing the victim further whereas the aggressor walks freely without society identifying the heinous crime the aggressor committed against humanity, hence media practitioners should be first human being to give humanity to the stories, while doing their professional work. She advised participants against sensationalism while reporting rape cases and other gender issues as it does a lot of damage to the victims.
She blamed women as gatekeepers of patriarchy in the society but called for a better understanding of gender related issues by media practitioners to enable them step the knowledge down by mainstreaming issues on gender in the media through framing and agenda setting.
“…….put on your gender googles and flip the scripts we have come to the point where we need to report precise details and descriptions–especially in the reportage of sexual assaults if there must be the hope of getting justice for victims. Womanhood, poverty and disability are being criminalized by the media’’, Njemanze concluded.
On her part, Head of Operations/ Editorial Manager , Digital Division , The Guardian Newspaper, Nigeria Lagos , Lolade Nwanze who blamed lack of quality control on who becomes a journalist to some of the problems encountered in reporting gender related issues by media practitioners, encouraged media professionals to curtail the practice for non-professionals.
Nwanze lamented that the gender misrepresentation and biases in the reportage of gender-sensitive issues were fuelled by citizen bloggers who masquerade as professionals in the field of journalism. She was emphatic that a Blogger is not a journalist, unless one with training as a journalist hence she insisted that real professionals in media should brace the challenge to do the needful and take over their profession from quacks in order to restore the reputation of journalism which is a serious professional job.
She emphasized on the need for education for everyone who wishes to be a media practitioner adding that with the democratization of the media space with numerous options, gender related issues should be better reported by professional media practitioners to stand them out from the crowd of bloggers.
Nwanze appealed to media practitioners to have a greater sense of responsibility whenever they are doing their reports, adding that images play great roles on gender stories, hence they should be mindful of the image accompanying their story.
She encouraged media practitioners to be credible always, throw away anything that will distract them from the kernel of the story, they were doing and to always protect the interest of the minor.
“Let’s call a spade a spade if there has been a violation of rights, the media should be able to call it the way it is,” Nwanze said.
A gender rights activist and Founder/ Managing Director of PAGED Initiative (Participatory Communication for Gender Development) Ummi Bukar encouraged media practitioners to be mindful of their choice of words and treat stories on their value rather than engage on self-judgment over the stories. She said media practitioners should stop focusing on superficial things or colouring the report to sensationalize the news for women but would not do same for men. She appealed for media practitioners to always do balanced the report as responsible media practitioners.
PAGED Founder insisted that writing human angle story was wonderful nut not making it sensational to the detriment of the victim who should enjoy protection to avoid damaging their future. She as well said the aggressor must not be protected by media reports but rather exposed to shame and ridicule to deter such acts in the future.
‘’We should shun sensationalism as responsible journalists, because there is no need to colour the story. Put off your judgment.’’, Bukar said.
Project Lead of TechHerNg and gender equality expert, Kawthar Ahmed who moderated the workshop informed that its aim was to mobilize consciously media practitioners for fair and balanced portrayal of women in the media as well as transform social commentary around gender based issues by simulating gender balanced news reports.
She also informed that the training will contribute to gender equality and women’s empowerment in Nigeria hence the training would be by sharing experiences otherwise known as experimental learning through reflective conversations.
She advised that media practitioners should not allow bias to affect their report at any time but should be sensitive for gender issues while reporting to avoid stereotypes that hold women down further.
A gender Advocate and staff of Imo state Rural Electrification Agency , Comrade Happiness Odoechi Stephen spoke about her encounter during the 2019 general elections in her quest to represent Ngo Okpala state House of Assembly as a practical session for the participants, but not without advice to the federal government and Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to end money politics in Nigeria.
TechHerNg for women in Technology is an NGO founded by Chioma Agwuegbo. TechHer is partnering European Union, British Council and Premium Times in training 60 journalists across Nigeria in Gender balanced communication as supported by Ford foundation.
The trainees at the end of the two day workshop admitted they have been improved on their skills in reporting gender related issues and called for retraining for better stepping down of the knowledge from the gender reporting for media professionals in Owerri.
By Odogwu Emeka Odogwu