Sharing stories to build inclusive peace: Georgian journalists speak out about the impacts of COVID-19 and conflict on women
November 2, 2020 by Heela Yoon and Agnieszka Fal-Dutra Santos
“The COVID-19 pandemic and the restrictions imposed by the government to prevent its spread have created serious socio-economic challenges for many families in Shida Kartli. However, despite the difficulties and the risk of contracting the virus, women remain on the ground, supporting each other and helping the most vulnerable.”Nino Chibchiuri, “Women on the occupation line in pandemic conditions”(Winning article in the National Media and WPS Prize in Georgia)
Local and national journalist play a key role in implementing the Women, Peace and Security (WPS) agenda and in building societies that are equal, peaceful and grounded in human rights principles. They provide people and communities with the information necessary to hold their governments accountable. They also shape attitudes, and can either contribute to perpetuating harmful gender stereotypes, or promote women’s contributions as leaders and peacebuilders.
Thus, journalistic work comes with many responsibilities. Increasingly, it also comes with a high risk. Violent attacks on journalists – including killings, arbitrary arrests and kidnapping – have been increasingly common, reaching “unprecedented levels” in 2018. The situation further deteriorated in 2019, when Reporters Without Borders noted that “hatred of journalists has degenerated into violence, contributing to an increase in fear.” The outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic further exacerbated the risks and challenges faced by journalists. Across the world, there has been an increase in legislation threatening to censor free speech, arrests of journalists, as well as threats and harassments.
Against this background, the Global Network of Women Peacebuilders (GNWP), in partnership with the Women’s Information Center (WIC) and with support from the Austrian Development Cooperation, organized a series of online trainings for journalists in Georgia in May 2020. The workshops raised awareness of the basic concepts of gender equality, the importance of women’s meaningful participation in politics and peace negotiations, and the different needs of women and girls in times of conflict and crisis situations among media practitioners. During the workshops, the participants and experts – including women from conflict-affected areas – discussed the role of the media during the COVID-19 pandemic. They noted that while the media could play an important role in disseminating life-saving information about the pandemic and preventative measures, which is scarce outside of major cities, it often fails to do so. The participants noted that in some instances the media has contributed to spreading incorrect information, and that coverage of the impact of the pandemic on women – for example, the impacts on reproductive health and the unpaid care work – has been completely absent from the reporting.
The online trainings organized by GNWP and WIC paved the way for local journalists and peacebuilders in Georgia to share their stories and stronger recommendations for the implementation of WPS agenda. They equipped the journalist and peacebuilders with knowledge and skills necessary to produce gender- and conflict-sensitive reports on COVID-19 and on peace and security.
To complement the training and to encourage more reporting on women and peace and security including the impact of the pandemic on women’s lives including their peacebuilding efforts, GNWP and WIC launched the National Media and WPS Prize in Georgia.
As a result of the intensive training course and the Media and WPS prize, nine media projects were submitted to the competition.
On this International Day to End Impunity for Crimes Against Journalists, GNWP and WIC proudly recognize the three winning media materials, which highlight the key roles of women peacebuilders in the implementation of WPS agenda and in responding to the COVID-19 pandemic in Georgia.
Please see summaries of the three recognized materials below.
First Place: Nino Chibchiuri, “Women on the occupation line in pandemic conditions”
In this engaging article, Ms. Nino Chibchiuri highlights the role of women peacebuilders during the COVID-19 pandemic. The article focuses on the lives of local women in conflict zones and the way in which the crisis has negatively affected women. For example, it shares the story of a mother of three from Tsitelubani Village near the occupation line, who has been “selling sugar and bread to be able to make a modest income due to shortage of food supplies.”
The article uses the COVID-19 pandemic to highlight a range of challenges related to gender equality in the conflict-affected region of Shida Kartli. These include: lack of physical and psychosocial support for women affected by conflict; exclusion of women from decision-making; and the negative gender stereotypes that result in women being perceived as “second-class citizens”.
However, the article emphasizes that women are not helpless victims of the pandemic and gender inequality. It provides several examples of women who have been mobilizing, distributing food packages, and supporting each other during the challenging times.
Second Place: Nana Kobalia, “‘Charirama’ – a farm in Darchel, run by a young woman”
This video reportage captures the story of a young woman farmer named Lela Kobalia and the struggle of her family during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The video follows young female farmers to show how they are making revenue by producing organic fruits and vegetables – a trade traditionally associated with men. The author also mentions the support of government to help local farmers enter their products into the EU market.
Third Place: Nina Kheladze, “The role of women in peace”
Full text available at: https://bit.ly/3lJUhxx
The article highlights the stories and struggles of peace activists involved in different peace projects in Abkhazia, one of the breakaway regions in Georgia. It illustrates the important role of the civil society in building bridges and strengthening social cohesion within the conflict-affected communities, and the important role of women in the implementation of these peace-related projects.
The article also notes the exchange of information between the activists in Abkhazia and their counterparts in Nagorno Karabakh, Armenia, Azerbaijan and Tbilisi. GNWP and WIC appreciate this as a good sign of potential collaboration among local women peacebuilders. The article also draws attention to the need of local peacebuilders in the region for greater funding and technical support.