(By Iheanyi Ezinwo, Publisher)- In a determined effort to make the society acknowledge gender based violence as a problem and for the relevant organs of government to take steps to either legislate, or ensure the enforcement of existing legislations, the Coalition of Eastern NGOs, CENGOs, and Civil Resource Development and Documentation Centre, CIRDDOC, in collaboration with Amplify Change, has organized a Media Round Table in Port Harcourt, Monday to increase awareness on Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHRs), and Gender-Based-Violence (GBV).
In his address at the training programme, the National Coordinator of CENGOS, an umbrella organisation of non-governmental organisations working on human rights in the old Eastern region of Nigeria, Mr. Pascal Anozie, said the purpose of the training was to enhance the capacity of the media to provide information on Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHRs), and on how survivors of gender-based violence and other citizens need to protect themselves. His address was presented by Mrs. Dunka David.
In her own remarks, the Coordinator of CENGOS in Rivers State, Barr.(Mrs.) Dunka E. David, explained that the objectives of the training workshop included to use the media to draw the attention of policy makers and other critical stakeholders in the society to the prevalent nature of gender-based violence, GBV, abuse of sexual and reproductive health rights, SRHRs, and the need for actions to check the abuses.
According to Mrs. Dunka David, the workshop is to “ help reporters and news managers grapple with the challenge of reporting gender-based violence in a way that does not perpetuate gender stereotypes but informs and encourages public debate”, even as she stressed that abuse of SRHRs and GBV have far-reaching consequences on women, families, and societies.
Speaking on ‘Guidelines for Reporting on Gender Based Violence and Sexual Violence’, Chief Constance Meju, Publisher of National Point newspaper and resource person at the training workshop, said that sexual violence “is a continuum of behaviors that include, but are not limited to, rape, criminal sexual conduct, sexual assault, sexual abuse, sexual exploitation and sexual harassment”.
Chief Meju stated that most sexual violence is committed by someone known to the victim and not by a stranger, and that anyone can be a victim/survivor of sexual violence, while regretting that majority of sexual assaults go unreported.
She further explained that gender based violence and sexual and reproductive rights abuse demand public abhorrence for positive changes in the society, hence the need to enhance the capacity of the media to bring cases of violations to the front burner, to the extent of causing policy changes.
The publisher of National Point said: “Victims of sexual violence are also victims of trauma, which can have short-term and lifelong mental and physical health implications, both for the individual harmed and for secondary victims such as family members.
“ The impact of sexual violence may depend on the nature of violence used, the relationship of the victim to the offender, history of previous traumatic events, the cultural or ethnic context of the violence, and the quality of support from friends, family and community”, while arguing that, “Public policy must respond to sexual violence in a comprehensive manner, focusing both on prevention and intervention”.
Chief Constance Meju stressed that the media can highlight cases of abuse, contact experts to make stories more compelling and accurate, and by so doing counteracting myths and outdated attitudes and draw attention to the prevailing societal attitudes towards rape and other forms of gender violence against women,
CENGOs, incidentally is an umbrella organisation of non-governmental organisations working on human rights in the old Eastern region of Nigeria, with chapters in Enugu, Anambra, Ebonyi, Imo, Abia, Akwa-Ibom, Cross River, Rivers and Bayelsa states. Similarly, CIRDDOC is also a non-governmental organisation committed to the promotion of women’s rights, access to justice and rule of law, while Amplify Change is an international development partner that aims to empower young people, men and women to realize their sexual and reproductive rights.
The Media round table, which drew participants from the print and electronic media, including online publishers and bloggers in Port Harcourt, featured discussions, exercises, questions and answers.