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The role of the media in eliminating gender-based violence against women and gilrs

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“Whoever controls the media, controls the mind” – Jim Morrison, famous American singer and writer

By Tony Onyima, Ph.D.

Last Friday, November 25, 2022, there were a number of activities world-wide to mark the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women. Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ), Anambra State Council in collaboration with Women Aid Collective (WACOL) and Ministry of Women and Social Welfare held one of such events. And I was privileged to be one of the three resource persons at the workshop themed ‘Eliminating Gender-based Violence’. I examined the role of the media in eliminating gender-based violence against women and girls.

United Nations General Assembly defines gender-based violence as “any act that results in, or is likely to result in, physical, sexual or psychological harm or suffering to women, including threats of such acts, coercion or arbitrary deprivation of liberty, whether occurring in public or in private life”. The Nigerian Human Rights Commission (NHRC) reports that in 2021 it received over 100,000 complaints over gender-based violence and sexual abuse. The number has continued to rise significantly especially with the fallouts of insurgency in the North-East of Nigeria. World Health Organization (WHO, 2013) estimates that 30% of the women in the world have ‘experienced physical or sexual violence at some point in their lives committed by their intimate partners’.

Even though countries have reported some progress on Goal 5 of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), women and girls have continued to suffer from discrimination and violence. Media’s coverage of the scourge, I submitted, do not reflect the reality and extent of the scourge. It is my view that the media through its agenda-setting role, can create the right conditions to reduce or eliminate this menace by taking committed civic stance through the promotion of ethical journalism or public interest journalism. When the media decide to devote time to gender-based violence and make them a real object of investigation and reporting, they often succeed in changing not only the way the phenomenon is viewed, but sometimes also the legal environment. Media practitioners, managers and owners should note that a reflection of the various biased representations, stereotypes, prejudices and violence against women and girls in their contents means taking part in changing the society. The media must respond to the needs of the society. I went on to list ten ways the media can help in eliminating gender-based violence against women and girls. My thesis is that knowledge of various manifestations of gender-based violence and good conduct by all will ultimately eliminate the global scourge. Concluding, I noted the statement of Jim Morrison who said: “whoever controls the media, controls the mind”. In many ways, the media control minds. This power should be deployed to create a less violent society which appreciates human dignity and recognizes gender equality.

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