The ongoing armed conflict in the North West and South West regions has not only affected the socio-political and economic aspects of these regions but has left many vulnerable people especially women, girls and children exposed to Gender Based Violence (GBV). This worsening situation calls for the improvement of communication on GBV/SRH, to create awareness, sensitized the population and cause behavioral change. It is for this reason that COMINSUD with the support of UNFPA organized a one day workshop for over 35 broadcast and Social Media actors in the North West region, to arm them with GBV/SRH content as well as mass media sensitization approaches needed to cause behavioral change.
Talking on Gender Based Violence (GBV), the Mezam divisional delegate of women empowerment and the family, Eseni Cordelia gave an insight to GBV, stating that it is an act that results in physical, sexual or psychological harm or suffering to women because of being women or men. “Over 85% of interviewed girls and women have experienced rape, sexual assault and intimate partner violence. Over 70% of respondents expressed an increase in the number of cases of GBV since the start of the crisis. She further indicated that IDPs are sharing shelters, using the available water points, latrines, showers and other facilities which expose them to risks of sexual violence.
Participants discussed on the forms of GBV, causes and actors involved while giving examples of some cases. “There is a gang in Santa that attack homes and rape women. Other cases of GBV are caused by stored anger or frustration. You will find a woman who has worked all day in the office, comes back home to cook and take care of the children. She is so tired and wants to sleep but the husband wants sex and she denies. This spikes him and he ends up beating the woman”. Stated Eseni Cordelia
She also explained that all forms of GBV are punishable by law and media practitioners should know them so as to give quality information to the population. “To prevent GBV, the root causes that promote it must be address and cause people to change their way of thinking via community engagement and individual prevention methods”.
On Sexual Reproductive Health Rights, health expert David Ayim, explained the different parts of the female and male reproductive organ, specifying that many people especially women often make mistakes about what part of the reproductive organ, has an infection because the female organ has 9 external parts and 3 internal parts. For example, a woman might tell a doctor, she has itches on her vagina whereas, it is on the vulva.
He went ahead to drill participants on pre-conceptual care and family planning prevention methods. ”Pre-conception care at a family planning unit is designed to help couples know how to have healthy babies while family planning preventive methods (contraceptives) are to help them decide when they want to have babies”.
Talking to Yvette Njeh a journalist at CBS Radio, the workshop has changed the perception she had about GBV. ”I thought only women do experience GBV but today I discovered men are also victims. We are often quick to judge the man who has physically abuse a woman without looking at the root causes. So it is important to understand where the problem is coming from, before counseling couples who find themselves in this situation.
For Tabort Florence, the workshop is timely as the crisis has left many people vulnerable to GBV. “On a daily basis, we get stories of rape, physical assault and even verbal abuse which have resulted from hate speech. This workshop will therefore help journalist understand how to carve out messages that can help prevent GBV in our society. We talk of peace and development, how is that possible if we still have such cases in our society?”
In the days ahead, participants will carry out mass media campaigns via broadcast and social media to sensitize the public on GBV/SRH.
It should be noted that the delegation of women’s empowerment and the family, together with COMINSUD, acts as a referral path way for survivors of GBV and COMINSUD has a safe space for these survivors. COMINSUD will soon have a shelter home for women and girls.
Maikem Emmanuela Manzie