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A diverse and independent media is a requisite for sustainable peace – journalists in DRC discuss their role in promoting women’s leadership, peace and security

A diverse and independent media is a requisite for sustainable peace – journalists in DRC discuss their role in promoting women’s leadership, peace and security

A diverse and independent media is a requisite for sustainable peace – journalists in DRC discuss their role in promoting women’s leadership, peace and security

October 5, 2018 by Agnieszka Fal-Dutra Santos*

Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of the Congo

“Our role, as journalists, is to promote the rights of the people, especially women; to teach the population about their rights; and elevate their voices and their concerns, so that they are heard by authorities.” – this is how the participants of a consultation workshop on media and Women, Peace and Security (WPS) in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, described their responsibility towards the society. In a country, which has been ravaged by war and insecurity since 1996, despite numerous attempts at peace negotiations and the presence of the UN peacekeeping force, and in which the socio-political and security situation remains unstable and unpredictable, the role of the press is all the more important.

The armed conflict in DRC has claimed millions of lives, and led to the displacement of countless people. The war has also been waged on women’s bodies, with rape frequently used as a weapon of war. Today, DRC continues to experience armed clashes, especially in the east of the country, as well as – more recently – in the Kasai region. The violence is fueled by chaos and weak governance, which have created a fertile ground for the emergence of various armed rebel groups. Gender inequality and the failure to recognize and support women’s leadership is an important factor fueling the conflict. As the long-awaited elections scheduled for 23 December 2018 approach, it is now more important than ever to elevate the voices of women, and promote the images of women as not only victims, but also agents of peace.

The media are the first and main actors who have the power to change the perception of the society, and shape the agenda and priorities of the country. Yet, the dominant women’s images in the Congolese media are still those of victims. GNWP and its partner, Cadre Permanent de Concertation de la Femme Congolaise (CAFCO), with support from the Peace and Stabilization Operations Program of the Global Affairs Canada, organized a consultation on media and WPS on October 4, 2018 in Kinshasa. Journalists from radio, television, print and online media participated in the consultation workshop which enabled them to increase their awareness about the WPS agenda and their role in implementing it. They also formulated a set of concrete recommendations to strengthen media’s role in the achievement of sustainable peace.

The media in DRC faces many challenges. The media outlets are viewed as often politicized and – as the participants admitted – it is a common practice to have to pay a fee in order to have certain stories on the front page of a newspaper, or be broadcast during prime time. Women often do not have the resources, or the connections to be able to ensure such coverage. In this context, the role of journalists is key. They need to work twice as hard to make sure that the stories about women, presenting them as leaders and agents of change – are given the coverage and attention that they deserve. There are already some positive examples. The textual gender analysis conducted by the consultation participants found articles representing women as leaders, activists and entrepreneurs. But these are still too few and far between.

The consultation is the first initiative in DRC that focuses on working with the media to effectively implement the WPS resolutions including the promotion of women’s participation in the upcoming elections. The participants appreciated the information about UNSCR 1325 and the supporting WPS resolutions, and engaged in lively discussions about them. They also identified concrete actions and steps they can take to ensure better coverage of WPS issues and women’s leadership more broadly. These included actions that could be taken immediately such as:  raising awareness among their editors and colleagues; creating a WhatsApp group to facilitate communication on WPS-related events and topics; organizing weekly radio talk shows on WPS, featuring women peacebuilders; and producing articles and interviews with more women candidates ahead of the December elections. Others, such as creation of a network of journalists covering UNSCR 1325 and including more women in leadership positions in the media, will require more time and resources. Based on the participants’ recommendations, CAFCO and GNWP will develop a media strategy and share it with the Ministry of Communication and the Media.

GNWP has also facilitated similar media and WPS workshops in Armenia, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine with support from the Austrian Development Agency. The workshops successfully established an increased awareness and appreciation of the WPS agenda, and the media’s role in promoting and stimulating debates on the issue. In Ukraine, following the workshop, the State Radio and Television Broadcasting Commission launched a “media and WPS prize.” The competition proved to be a good motivation for the media to produce reports and stories on the subject. The best articles on WPS were recognized during an award ceremony in June 2018. GNWP and CAFCO hope to work with the Ministry of Media and Communication in DRC to organize a similar competition.

“No country has ever achieved a true, lasting and inclusive peace without a strong and independent media” – this is the message with which Mavic Cabrera Balleza, the CEO of GNWP, left the participants of the media consultation in DRC. As they return to their desks and recording studios, they are taking back with them new information, as well as inspiration to fulfil their responsibility towards the society. We look forward to seeing the results of their commitment!

 

Photos from event:

 

*Agnieszka Fal-Dutra Santos is a Program Coordinator and Policy Specialist at the Global Network of Women Peacebuilders