Journalists breaking boundaries to help end violence against women and girls
ABUJA, Nigeria – Before the pandemic, nearly 3 in 10 Nigerian women experienced physical violence by the age of 15, according to the National Demographic and Health Survey (2013). Since the pandemic, UN Resident Chief Edward Kallon estimates that there has been a four-fold increase in violence against women and girls (VAWG) in the country, describing the situation in Nigeria as "a pandemic within a pandemic". Breaking the silence around VAWG is critical to combatting gender-based violence, both to change harmful attitudes that normalize VAWG and to encourage survivors and families to report abuse.
"I could only leave home to verify stories – but even with these limitations, I discovered the extent of violence that is being perpetrated against women and girls” - Edoamaowo Udeme, Journalist
Journalists like Edoamaowo Udeme and other members of the media network set up by the Spotlight Initiative - a global, multi-year partnership between the European Union (EU) and United Nations to end all forms of violence against women and girls - are using editorials, feature stories and special reports to challenge the sometimes difficult narrative around violence and bring about positive change.
“Violence against women and girls is a silent epidemic in Nigeria. In the middle of the COVID-19 lockdown, I could only leave home to verify stories – but even with these limitations, I discovered the extent of violence that is being perpetrated against women and girls,” said Edoamaowo Udeme.
Ms. Udeme's job is to report the facts, but the extent of the epidemic of violence against women and girls has had an impact on her. Relying on phone and SMS to receive leads, and only venturing out to verify stories before publishing, meant that she was relying on news reaching her first. What she found was that many of the stories that came to her were related to domestic violence. She received up to 20 calls per day from women and children who were subjected to violence, which led to the creation of a Facebook page, ‘Movement Against Domestic Violence and other Related Issues’, later transformed into the Network Against Domestic Violence (NADV).
“NADV intervened in the case of a pastor that molested a 13-year-old girl. They traced her village outside of Abuja, wrote extensively about the case, and secured the attention of prominent Nigerian journalists and the Ibom People's Union USA, who supported the family and more than 25 other victims of sexual and gender-based violence,” said Ms. Udeme.
“NADV intervened in the case of a pastor that molested a 13-year-old girl. They traced her village outside of Abuja, wrote extensively about the case, and secured the attention of prominent Nigerian journalists." - Edoamaowo Udeme, Journalist
A recent media dialogue on ethical and gender-sensitive reporting, advocacy and solutions journalism supported by Spotlight Initiative has further strengthened the skills of journalists like Ms. Udeme. The media dialogue touched on issues such as the strategies journalists can use to advocate for causes actively and intentionally, in order to draw the attention of government and policymakers to the need to address gaps in funding and programme implementation.
“The training gave me renewed energy for my work. Human-interest stories is what I love doing, so the training gave me a pathway to better reporting. Our visit to the traditional ruler in Jikwoi was an eye-opener - it exposed strategies the community adopted to tackle sexual and gender-based violence and gave birth to solutions story ideas I will work on,” said Udeme.
The Spotlight Initiative is supporting UNICEF Nigeria's media engagement to help address negative socio-cultural norms, root causes of gender-based violence and harmful practices against women and girls (such as child marriage and female genital mutilation); ensuring access to inclusive, timely, and quality services for those who have experienced violence; and strengthening legal and policy frameworks and coordinated institutions, in addition to community mobilization and empowerment.
By Khadijah Ibrahim. Original story published by UNICEF Nigeria.