AFRICA: Raising the Profile of Gender-Based Violence

Published on IPS, by George Mwita, Aug. 8, 2009.

NAIROBI, Aug 8 (IPS) – Imagine you are a journalist; you get a tip for a story about a sexual assault on a ten-year-old girl, and pitch it to your editor.

You think it’s a strong story idea – fresh news of a violent crime illustrating a widespread social problem; aching human interest angle and solid sources. But he – and chances are high that your editor is male – is not interested.

Susan Wabala, from Peace Pen Communications, a Kenyan media organisation focused on social change, peace-building and conflict resolution, says just such a story about the rape of a minor in the girl’s family home was turned down by editors.  

“We gave the editors that story but they never wanted to run it, simply because it was one of those stories that don’t sell,” she says.

Wabala’s experience was a common one for East African journalists attending a workshop on reporting gender-based violence organised by Inter Press Service in Nairobi from Aug. 3-7 …

… Without prominent, sustained coverage of gender-based violence, police can quietly abandon domestic violence and rape cases; judges can routinely hand out light sentences to the fraction of offenders who are actually convicted. Families may settle cases out of court, as poverty puts pressure on parents to trade the trauma faced by their children for a meagre cash settlement.

Sylvia Mwichuli, of the U.N. Millennium Campaign, told the workshop that there is growing knowledge and understanding of what gender-based violence is about.

“But for most of Africa this is an issue that people don’t even talk about,” she said.

“You must pay more attention to this issue. You must realise that millions of women and children – and sometimes men, increasingly men – are going through a life of serious indignity. Totally unable to stand up for themselves. We must support the movement against gender-based violence.” – END/2009. (full text).

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