About 80 Nigeria journalists on Tuesday gathered in Ikeja, Lagos State for a seminar on media and gender sensitive reporting of elections ahead of the 2019 general elections to change the narratives of the plights of women in politics.
The one day training was organised by Nigeria’s election management body, the Independent National Electoral Commisaion, INEC, with the funding from UN Women and support from Canada.
The training sensitised the media on the need to be conscious in mainstreaming gender in their reportage of electoral activities in 2019 general elections and equipped the practictioners with skills for balanced reporting of women and other vulnerable groups in the pre, during and post electoral processes.
According to Mrs. Blessing Obidegwu, Deputy Director – Gender Divison, INEC, the training was conveyed to facilitate gender mainstreaming in election-related media reporting as well as to facilitate experience sharing on best practices of media and democratic governance.
She further informed that INEC in the last few months held meetings with stakeholders to identify with what will be required to adequately mainstream gender in the forthcoming elections.
Expressing appreciation to its development partner, UNWomen, Mrs. Obidegwu highlighted, “UNWomen has always worked for gender equality and womens political participation across the globe and Nigeria in particular.
She said the media need to support the advocacy for gender equality by making their reportage of electoral activities more gender sensitive and responsive.
“Electorates rely on the media for news and information on electoral activities especially stakeholders like political parties, candidates, government agencies and even the election management body.
“The media is a vital agent of voter education and campaign platform and messages of voters with interest in the electoral process, she said.
Noting further that the media play indispensable role in shaping public opinion, she stressed that the role of the media demands that issues that affect women and other vulnerable groups of the society should be accounted for in election reporting and reportage.
She urged a change in the narratives, where men actors tend to receive more media attention at the detriment of the female candidates who suffered, get displaced for want of adequate exposures.
Obidegwu said, “Media marginalisation of women in types of electoral reporting also reinforces gender imbalance in politics as women are denied sufficient space of the media to project themselves to the electorates.”
INEC observation on the persisting situation was summarised this way, “Election related media reporting is naturally gender blind and insensitive to the challenges women face in their pursuit of their political ambition.
“Men dominates media coverage or reporting of electioneering activities, tend to excerberate gender stereotypes which further dampen the prospect of the proven women visibility and fair representation in the elective positions.
Facilitators like Mrs. Ifeanyiwa Omowole, President National Association of Women Journalists, NAWOJ, during her lecture on ‘Media, Gender Stereotypes in Nigeria Elections,’ emphasised that media practictioners avoid sterotyping or stigmatising women in politics with their reports ascribing to them fixed characteristics or roles as such is damaging and only amounts to subjugating women and by implication subjugating the children.
She suggested, “When you are writing about a woman, you are writing about development and inclusion.
“Ensure that women are reported and reported positively. No one has the right to exclude anybody, she maintained.
Professor Nosa Owens-Ibie, General Secretary, Association of Communication Scholars and Professionals of Nigeria, ACSPN, in his paper advocated that the media bring to the front burner the issues affecting women stating, “If you don’t peoject women, nobody will hear them because the female voice have been muffled for a long time.
He espoused that women are value-adder so their issues, in the aspects of cultural and institutional, political processes, religious limitation, insecurity in the electoral processes should be x-rayed properly.
He mentioned how the issues of historical inequality, relative under representation, wavering committment to affirmative action and business as usual media have plagued women for long.
Mrs. Ene Ede, Chief Facilitator, Equity Advocates and Publisher, The Woman Today newspaper spoke on monitoring and reporting every category of women in the election process and reminded the media practictioners in attendence to equip themswlves with INEC checklist, guidelines and look out for gender friendly interventions.
Mr. Lanre Arogundade, President, International Press Centre, IPC, in his presentation to participants titled ‘Balanced Media Reporting As A Tool for Strengthening Nigeria’s Electoral Process Towards 2019 General Elections,’ said journalists must report news or information that the citizens want to hear by ensuring balanced reporting by way of eliminating biases and impartial transmission of news to reflect diverse sides and being inclusive in their reportage.
He advised them to utilised necessary tools of reporting and arm themselves with Bob Steele’s 10 questions to make good ethical decisions.
Mr. Desmond Osemhenjie, Programme Manager, Women’s Leadership And Participation (WLP) of the UN Women United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and Empowerment of Women who represented Ms. Comfort Lamptey, UN Women Nigeria Country Representative brought goodwill messages to the participants alongside Mr. Sam Olumekun Resident Electoral Commissioner, INEC, Lagos State, Mrs. Funke Egbemode, President, Nigeria Guild of Editors.
The facilitators brought to bare their experiences and expertise in advocating best practices in reportage of women issues of electoral processes.
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