Addis Ababa — The African Union Commission Department of Health, Humanitarian Affairs and Social Development (AUC-HHS) in collaboration with the Spotlight Initiative Africa Regional Programme have called on African media practitioners to report sensitive cultural issues including FGM/FGM with an ethical lens. The regional body and the UN made the call at an international media forum of over 70 media practitioners from West, Central and Northern regions on reporting sensitive and harmful traditional practices including FGM at its headquarters in Addis Ababa Ethiopia.
The training which is a way of mobilizing support of media practitioners and university journalism faculty members from member states currently implementing the AU Campaigns on Ending Child Marriage and Eliminating Female Genital Mutilation (FGM), will enhance media awareness, garner media support for advocacy-based reporting and to mobilize social behavioral changes at all levels led by the media against harmful traditional practices, particularly child marriage and Female Genital Mutilation (FGM).
The media experts are expected to lead actions and reforms towards ethical, informed, balanced, and human rights focused reporting on sensitive and harmful traditional practices with a key focus on victims including women and children who have been affected by this issue (cultural human rights abuse) in the region.
UNFPA Ending Female Genital Mutilation Campaign and African Union experts presented various topics and statistics around the dangers of Child Marriage and FGM, an issue deeply rooted in some African cultures and sometimes highly political thereby exposing more women and girls to the dangers of same, which needs concerted efforts and collaboration to tackle (break the silence).
Journalists shared their experiences from their various countries on how it feels like reporting on these issues including the risks associated. “Reporting sensitive and harmful traditional practices in risky in most countries. We need to work together to minimize the risks and create ways to protect ourselves while highlighting the facts and dangers of FGM and others to victims especially children” Some of the participants in both English and French speaking Africa said.
UNFPA and the A.U officials stressed the importance of reporting harmful traditional practices and FGM with an ethical consideration that guarantees ‘no harm’ and protects ‘rights of the victims’ in line with accepted U.N. and A.U. human rights instruments.
In a very appealing voice Dr. Esther Muai, the head of the UNFPA Representative office to the AU UNECA said the more organizations and partner strengthen the fight against harmful practices, the more it seems like the act is increasing. She reminded participants that as the training is ongoing a girl is somewhere being cut or given up as a child bride. Despite the progress toward ending FGM, we still have more than two hundred million girls and women globally who have experience FGM and with more girls being subject to the practice before the age 15 this is unacceptable. She expanded that for the world to get to zero harmful practices for women and girls, everyone needs to work together acknowledging that the media is the most critical partner that needs to be there before even the programmers and services providers. She believed the media remains a critical partner to UNFPA in achieving their goals. Concluding, Dr. Muai noted that no nations can achieve development if they ignore the wellbeing of the people that supposed to benefit from the said development. “Together let’s look at how can we be able to reach more women and girls with prevention, protection and healthcare for FGM and adverting early marriages let’ not wait for follow ups when the damage is already done so you who in the digital age that we are dealing with there are so much more to your disposal to help fight this…we are depending people like you to work with the young people because they are the leaders for tomorrow.
The session is being attended by representatives from Ghana, Nigeria, Niger, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Mauritania, Djibouti, Egypt, Chad, Liberia, Kenya, The Gambia, Mali, Benin, Chad, Guinea, Chad, Tunisia, and Uganda, respectively.
The media experts are expected to lead actions and reforms towards ethical, informed, balanced, and human rights focused reporting on sensitive and harmful traditional practices with a key focus on survivors including women and children who have been affected by this issue (cultural human rights abuse) in the region.
The three day media training will end with a development of a country workplan where each participant will commit to publish or air a harmful practice media piece in the next three months.
Sexual and Gender Based Violence including Child marriage and FGM are harmful practices that violate the rights and dignity of women and girls in Africa. They have negative impacts on their health, education, empowerment and well-being. The African Union has launched several different campaigns to end harmful practices and has developed policies and programs to support the elimination of child marriage and FGM in Africa.