The Centre for Journalism Innovation and Development (CJID), on Tuesday launched a gender-based violence reporting handbook in an effort to better guide journalists and researchers on Gender-Based Violence (GBV) reportage in Nigeria and West Africa.
According to Tobi Oluwatola, acting executive director of the centre, the handbook launched in Abuja, hopes to educate the media to report correctly on issues of gender-based violence and all issues pertaining to gender inclusion as it is critical for sustainable development .
Underpinning the media’s roles, Mr Oluwatola noted that “on the one hand, the media needs to correctly shape the stereotypes and norms around gender reporting that lead to GBV, and on the other hand, the media ought to demand accountability from society when incidents do occur.”
“The role of CJID is to support the media in playing its role as a gatekeeper, agenda setter and watchdog for democracy and it is in this spirit that we have produced this gender based reporting handbook.”
Formerly known as the Premium Times Centre for Investigative Journalism (PTCIJ), CJID is a non-governmental organisation, founded in 2014, to promote a truly independent media landscape that advances fundamental human rights, good governance and accountability in West Africa through investigative journalism, open data and civic technology.
In her remarks, Busola Ajibola, CJID’s deputy director of journalism programme, said the book launched is not only meant for journalists, but will help all media practitioners to understand and learn how to report issues of GBV in an ethical manner that does not downscale or stigmatise victims.
Ganiyat Tijani-Adenle, the book reviewer and lecturer at the Lagos State University School of Communication, said the handbook unpacks the framework that entrench gender-based violence in Nigeria as well as in other anglophone countries in West Africa.
“The gems in this handbook are not meant to aid the media in helping only women surmount gender-based violence, as men also experience gender-based violence – but there is unanimous agreement that women/girls and children experience GBV at an alarmingly high proportion, in comparison to men,” she explained.
Ms Tijani-Adenle noted that the focus of the handbook is on women without discounting the various ways that the Nigerian culture undermines the silent struggles of men, due to the expectation that they are ‘strong’ and should not be vulnerable to abuse or violence.
Similarly, Abiola Akiyode-Afolabi, Women Advocates Research and Documentation Centre’s (WARDC) executive director, acknowledged that media plays an important role in gender reporting and has the power to expand the knowledge of the public and policymakers.
However, she said, “the manner in which the media reports gender-based violence can determine the degree of importance the public and policy makers accord the issue, and how solutions are rallied.”
Role of media in GBV reporting
Also featured at the event was a five-person panel who discussed “the role of media in ending gender-based violence and achieving gender equity.”
Jola Ayeye, co-founder, Salt and Truth Media, who was one of the panel discussants, said “the handbook is really important as it will move from a society where things are just happening to one where we think deeply about how we treat each other, how we punish and talk about issues of gender-based violence.”
“I believe this policy document is important, particularly on the occasion of international women’s day because there is a lot that can be done on how the media talks about people who have experienced any form of violence,” she said.
Ms Ayeye said “as a society, we have not been socialised to think carefully about the way we talk about women who have had acts of aggression done against them and the way we present this information to the general public.”
Funke Baruwa, programme officer, Ford Foundation, expressing her organisation’s pride in supporting the project, said they believe that the handbook is a toolkit that will help the media to be able to report well, true and just, issues related to gender-based violence.
According to Ms Baruwa, over the years journalists have reported gender-based violence issues from a background of lack of knowledge of what the issues are or what the focus should be.
She noted that as a result of this, the focus is placed on the victim or survivor and judgement against them rather than spotlight on the perpetrator.
However, it is not entirely the fault of the media, she said, “we have also not done enough to help the media understand the complexities of gender-based violence.”
Ms Baruwa added that she looks forward to the media’s engagement of the handbook in reporting gender-based violence.
“This is one book I believe that every newsroom should have,” said Moji Makanjuola, executive director, International Society of Media and Public Health. “What we have now is an epidemic considering the number of people that have fallen victim.”
Gender-Based Violence in Nigeria
The incidence of Gender Based Violence (GBV) in Nigeria according to the United Nation Population Fund is growing astronomically with the activities of the insurgency in the North-east. From forced and early marriages to the physical, mental or sexual assault on a woman, nearly three in 10 Nigerian women have experienced physical violence by age 15 (NDHS 2013).
This statistics saw an exponential rise in the wake of the pandemic in Nigeria. According to a 2021 UN women report, 48 per cent of Nigerian women have experienced at least one form of violence since the COVID-19 pandemic.
Also, over 3,600 rape cases were recorded across Nigeria during the lockdown, the minister of women affairs and social development, Pauline Tallen said during a courtesy visit to the Deputy Senate President, Ovie Omo-Agege in 2020.