By Emma Kakololo
The Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA) National Director Mathew Haikali has called on the media to harness its power in the fight against gender-based violence (GBV).
Addressing participants at the four-day National GBV Conference that ended in the capital last Friday, Haikali said strengthening the power of the media was crucial, as addressing such violence would require a change in broader social norms while the media has the ability to advocate such change.
The conference drew together stakeholders from different sectors to make interventions in the fight against GBV among others, and to come up with concrete and action-oriented recommendations for policy consideration.
“The media, collectively, plays an important role in the shaping of perceptions around women, their role in society and what is considered ‘acceptable’ with regard to gender roles.
It has the potential to play a major role in transforming negative stereotypes around women, and perceptions around gender-based violence,” Haikali said.
He noted that sometimes the media contributed to the acceptance of GBV through the portrayal of negative and stereotypical images of women and through the way it reported issues of GBV, and that a collective approach in the fight against GBV was necessary.
“More often that not, however, the media upholds flawed perceptions of women and gender-based violence, upholds that status quo, and even goes as far as to create an enabling climate for gender-based violence by normalizing and legiti-mizing gender-based violence in its reporting or on its omission of reporting on gender-based violence.
“This way, prevention of and response to gender-based violence should work in synergy.
“The media and all partners involved should take a holistic approach to gender-based violence.
“Strengthening the media can have a long-term influence on how the community responds to the issue of gender-based violence,” he urged.
In addition, he said awareness could also be raised through other forums such as public hearings, where survivors of violence give testimonies of the abuse they have suffered, as well as workshops for law enforcement agencies to sensitize law enforcers on the issue of violence.
“These activities should focus on discussing basic gender issues, forms of violence and how they are looked at from the existing law, international conventions and problems faced in the process of dealing with gender-based violence.”
He also called for more workshops aimed at sensitizing journalists so they can develop more informed views and news on GBV and other issues related to women’s rights.