Media Backs Moves to Amplify Voices of Women in Conflict

By Ken Meju The near absence of mention of issues critical to women in the Nigerian media will soon be a thing of the past. This is because jo

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By Ken Meju

The near absence of mention of issues critical to women in the Nigerian media will soon be a thing of the past. This is because journalists rising from a training on the implementation of the United Nations Resolution on Security, UNSCR 1325, have made personal commitments to project issues on abuse of women rights particularly in conflict situations greater attention. They also promised to raise calls for inclusion of women in peace-building.

 The was the outcome of a training on amplifying women’s voices for peace and implementing the UNSCR 1325   was a collaboration between the West African Network for Peace-building, WANEP, Nigeria and her global sister, GNWP, Global  Network of Women Peace-builders, which held February 4-5 at Bolton White Hotel, Abuja to sensitize the media on UNSCR 1325 and fashion out ways to stimulate its implementation in the country.

Welcoming participants drawn from varied media organizations across the country, national coordinator of WANEP, Nigeria, Bridget Osakwe, said Nigeria is plagued by varied  conflicts –armed, pastoral/herdsmen, militancy, ethnic, etc, because of the complex nature of the country and even though the major impacts of these are faced by women and children, women’s voices are very minimal in the public sphere and  women are missing in the peace architecture of the country whereas women are recognized as vital to enduring peace building.

Osakwe  said the media, as the Fourth Estate of the Realm  constitutionally charged with the duty of informing the people and shaping discuss to influence policies, are important to changing the narrative on women generally and  in peace-building.

She challenged the media to put on a gender lens and begin to write women into conflict by presenting their perspectives and suggestions on ways of checking conflict and sustain peace.

Said she:  “Media is a key partner in promoting broad public awareness and therefore  effectively implementing UNSCR 1325. We want each journalist to ask, what can I do to promote this agenda, and make sure the representation of women in the Nigerian media is changed?

“When media reporters adopt a gender lens, they become key actors in promoting broad public awareness of WPS (Women Peace and Security), support and recognize the role women play in preventing conflict, building and sustaining peace”.

In her presentation, programme coordinator of GNWP, Ms Agnieszka Fal-Dutra Santos  stressed that when  reporters adopt a gender lens, they become key actors in promoting broad public awareness of issues on women, peace and security, WPS, support and recognize the role women play in conflict prevention , peace-building and sustenance.

According to her it is the media that will set the agenda for government and the people to recognize need to change approach on issues concerning women.

“People and government cannot implement what they do not know. In our work in over 20 countries we always see media as our main ally. We do not want the media to be an afterthought. We want it to be at the front and center of implementation of these important international laws. We hope this workshop will be a long and fruitful partnership with key media players in Nigeria”, she stressed.

Noting that women have transformed from being merely victims in conflict situations to change agents, the GWNP coordinator said  the UN has recognized this shift and provided room to accommodate women in peacebuilding through UNSCR 1325 and already, there are women in such structures in over 40 countries.

“There are women in over 40 countries. UN SCR 1325 encourages women to participate in all levels. The media  can be of use to women’s cause by amplifying their voices in peace and security issues. Women are transformed elements of Resolution 1325. They are transformed  from the violated to actors.

Before now they were the victims, the violated but now they are change agents, she explained but lamented that women are still far from being actively involved in peacebuilding at both local and national levels.

Agneiszka challenged journalists to be women’s allies to raise their voices with regards to Resolution 1325, expanding awareness on what it is all about, increasing knowledge about it, discussing related international laws and developing strategies  for helping  its enforcement in the country.

The media was urged to seek out women, give those impacted by conflict a face by seeking them out speaking to them in ways they can understand to be able to bring their stories and plight to the public domain.

One of the resource persons on Media, Toun Sonaiyi challenged the journalists to distinguish themselves by digging into women issues. “Media has no gender. You decide what you want to do. Distinguish yourself and do research on women. You will be sought after”.

To women journalists, she advised, “Get a good story. You earn your position by hard work”.

UNSCR 1325 in pursuant of elimination of abuses against women and girls especially in times of armed conflict, addresses the protection of rights and position of women in political and decision making as well as the prosecution of violators, inclusion of women in peace-building  as well as rehabilitation.