Peace building: Promote roles of women, stakeholders beckon media

The media has been urged to promote gender parity in reports by portraying the active roles of women in peacebuilding, support their participation in public debate, challenge gender stereotypes and hold decision-makers accountable for women rights, instead of always describing them as victims.

Founder and CEO of Women Radio Toun Okewale Sonaiya, made the call in Abuja while delivering a paper titled “Gender and the media in Nigeria” during a 2-day training workshop on the Women, Peace and Security (WPS) Resolutions for media practitioners organised by the West Africa Network for Peace building (WANEP) Nigeria in partnership with the Global Network of Women Peace builders (GNWP).

Okewale noted that the voices of women continue to be suppressed because only a few women own media houses, urging more women to take on more top spots and encourage more females to own media in Nigeria.

According to her, of the 625 functional broadcast stations in Nigeria, 84% is male dominated at top-level management just as majority of the media houses are owned by men.

She noted further that, “the news read, heard and seen are male dominated. Four out of five experts interviewed by media are men.

“Only 76% of news sources, of people seen, of voices heard or read about in the media are men. Newspapers headlines focus on men. Primetime programmes exclude women.

“Though Nigerian media is one of the most vibrant in Africa with almost either a radio and TV station in each state, we are ranked 135 among nations with freedom of press. This supremacy by men in the media has defined patriarchal reportage and taken away the voice of reasoning needed to develop growth and a sustainable Nigerian media.

“This power by men sets a level of limitation for the woman and women issues and sadly a dependence on men as experts on female-centric issues.”

The CEO therefore harped on the need for all to encourage more female journalists to climb the ladder, also stressing the need to give prominence to women stories that reflect women’s perspective as well as include gender perspective to reporting by interviewing more women experts.

“Learn how to interview survivors in a sensitive and respectful way, porttay Women positively in the media by practicing fairness, equity and objectivity in press coverage and protect female practitioners and promote a safe working environment ,” she stressed.

Earlier in her welcome address, the Founder and CEO of GNWP, Mavic Cabrera Balleza, noted that the United Nations Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) 1325 encouraged women’s participation in decision making on Women Peace and Security (WPS) at all levels, adding that this resolution puts women’s efforts at the center of global leadership on WPS.

She however expressed disappointment that 21 years on, media coverage of conflicts has a dominant portrayal of women as victims.

“Yes, women are disproportionately impacted by conflicts and yes, many women are victims but they are not passive victims because they are fighting back, some have joined wars and many more are building peace but the way they are portrayed only as victims is a disservice to the Journalism profession and not responsible Journalism.

“There are many women who are resisting violence, women who have exceptional courage to bring peace but we don’t see them in the media, and this is also conflicted during the Covid19 pandemic where Violence Against Women (VAW) and existing inequalities has risen to unprecedented level,” she said.

She maintained that VAW and gender inequalities are both drivers of conflicts and a consequence of conflicts, calling on the media to examine these complexities to achieve more balance of Women’s portrayal in the media in conflicts situation.

One of the participants, Maureen Okpe, said the training was an eye-opener and would encourage her to explore untold story angles of women in peace and security.