A participant gives her views on gender equality in the media ©UNDP Sierra Leone/ Claire Flynn-Byrne

There was a flurry of activity and excitement at the Family Kingdom Resort on Friday 24th August. The participants of a workshop on gender sensitive reporting and peacebuilding were role playing prominent political Sierra Leonean women in various scenarios. These scenarios touched on key issues such as women in politics, the Safe Abortion Act, domestic violence, navigating traditions and traditional leaders, and the question of whether Sierra Leone is ready for a female president.

These role plays demonstrated the influence women can have in politics and the importance of including them fairly in media coverage.

The workshop

The 3- day gender sensitive reporting and peacebuilding training for journalists was part of a joint project between UNESCO, UN Women and UNDP, supported by the Government of Sierra Leone and the UN Peacebuilding Fund (PBF). The opening session began with a reflection on gender roles in society, the changing roles of women, and a frank discussion on gender equality and representation in the media. The concluding role plays saw participants putting their acting skills to the test, resulting in uproarious laughter. The importance of maintaining a gender balance and adhering to gender sensitive language was a theme upheld in all activities throughout the day

Women in Sierra Leonean media

Mr. Abuja Macaulay Olushola, communication and information officer at UNESCO, said that this workshop will be used as a medium to promote accountability to promote women’s participation in the media. Women in Sierra Leone are the most vulnerable group in terms of targets of violence, particularly during elections or moments of crisis where sexual and gender-based violence tends to increase. Even though women constitute 52% of the population, women’s representation and voice in decision-making and in elected positions are negligible. This is supplemented by poor reporting on gender sensitive issues, as hate speech and rumour-mongering intensify during election periods.

According to Mr. Kelvin Lewis, president of the Sierra Leone Association of Journalists (SLAJ), the association does not have a gender policy but tried to ensure gender inclusivity in reporting throughout the election period. They organised the women’s debate, which was televised nationally, and trained over 500 journalists on conflict and gender sensitive material. Only 134 women are registered members of SLAJ according to Mr. Lewis, but this is something SLAJ is trying to change and more women are encouraged to register.

Ms. Annette Nalwoga, UNDP Governance Team Leader, reminded participants that the role of women is at the heart of peace and stability in Sierra Leone and specified why training on gender sensitive reporting is so important.

 “I feel that the training on gender sensitive reporting will significantly contribute to peace and reconciliation and social cohesion. We need to avoid reporting negative messages that are likely to create tension. If you avoid that, you are creating a platform that brings people together.”

For further enquiries please contact: Macaulay Olushola, UNESCO Regional office, Abuja, o.macaulay@unesco.org

Article written by Claire Flynn-Byrne 

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