16days: Fighting sexual harassment in African newsrooms
UN Women has kicked off 16days of activism, a campaign to end violence against women and girls around the world.
It began on November 25, which is recognized as International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, and runs until 10 December (Human Rights Day).
“In recent years, the voices of survivors and activists, through campaigns such as #MeToo, #TimesUp, #Niunamenos, #NotOneMore, #BalanceTonPorc, and others, have put the spotlight on the issue of sexual violence and have reached a crescendo that cannot be silenced or ignored anymore,” the United Nations Women chapter said.
This year’s theme Orange the World: Generation Equality Stands against Rape! is intended to urge people from all walks of life to learn more and take a stand against the pervasive rape culture.
In line with the UN campaign, Ghana’s EAA media productions also kicked off the #TimesUpAfriMedia campaign on sexual harassment in media houses across Africa.
The multimedia campaign that runs alongside UN’s 16 Days of Activism brings together African women journalists working in newsrooms, those within the media landscape as well as the associations that support them.
EAA Director Esther Armah said the project is intended to call out sexual harassment and support female journalists.
“Our media industry reports stories of rape, sexual violence and sexual harassment. We are in the business of pointing out others’ wrongdoing, and highlighting that as well as calling for action to make change. What about looking in the mirror of our own media houses? What do we see? How safe are women journalists in newsrooms, are women working in media houses? And how does what happens in those newsrooms and media houses shape the reporting of rape and sexual violence?” she posed.
Association of Media Women in Kenya (AMWIK), one of the partners in the #TimesUpAfriMedia campaign, recently concluded research on cases of online violence against women journalists.
According to Marceline Nyambala, AMWIK’s Executive Director, sexual harassment still emerged as one of the main challenges, which shows a growing need for consolidating synergy to mobilize attention on the vice.
“Sexual harassment in newsrooms and media space is a personal attack and an attack on freedom of expression. It causes many girls and women to leave the newsroom prematurely. The #TimeisUpAfriMedia campaign against sexual harassment is central to our work of improving safety, welfare and professionalism of women journalists,” she said.
Rachel Ombaka, a Kenyan journalist, avers that sexual harassment is almost never spoken about in newsrooms yet the media is central in highlighting the plight of victims and survivors in any society.
According to her, sexual harassment in newsrooms silences voices of people who would otherwise have remained confident.
“It leaves them withdrawn, anxious, angry, ashamed and often looking for the next exit out of the media industry. Through this campaign, women and men can find their voice again; speak up and speak out against sexual harassment so that silence is no longer an option. The next 16 days will be a show of solidarity and an acknowledgment that sexual harassment is happening, and that there is something that each of us can do about it from wherever we are,” she said.
The Media Council of Kenya (MCK), a partner in the campaign, also issued a call to action saying it is important that we move beyond talk to action, on giving women a conducive working environment in the newsrooms.
MCK stated that is the only way that women will get a greater voice and influence in the media, based on their skills and competencies.
Dr. Yemisi Akinbobola who is the co-founder of African Women in the Media (AWiM) stated that sexual harassment is wrong and in the workplace it both disempowers and disenfranchises those on the receiving end.
“As an organization that supports African women working in media industries, and the associations that support them, it was important that we contributed our efforts towards this important campaign,” she said.
According to Biola Alabi of Nigeria’s Biola Alabi Media, we need to think about how sexual harassment in the newsroom affects the way female reporters report sexual violence and rape cases.
“It is all of our responsibility to create a conducive working environment for all employees. This is why we are lending our voice to this very important campaign,” she said.
Over the next 16 days, there will be a video, Twitter chat and TV discussions and interviews on media stations in Ghana, Nigeria and Kenya exploring the issue and its impact on the individual and on the institution of media.
The video is voiced by two Ghanaian journalists: Bridget Otoo and Esther Armah.