February 7, 2019 by Agnieszka Fal-Dutra Santos
Without meaningful inclusion of women, there can never be a lasting solution to armed conflicts, and as a result, no sustainable development. The United Nations Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) 1325 recognized this fact and shifted the perception of women in conflict from that of victims to that of change-makers and agents of peace. Yet, in practice, women are still often perceived as passive victims or bystanders, and the images of women as peacebuilders are largely absent from the media, including in Nigeria.
The Global Network of Women Peacebuilders (GNWP), together with the West African Network of Peacebuilders (WANEP) – Nigeria, and with support from the Global Affairs Canada, organized a workshop on the role of the media in implementing the UNSCR 1325. Held in Abuja, Nigeria on February 4-5, 2019, the workshop convened journalists from across Nigeria to discuss how media can highlight women’s roles as leaders, peacebuilders and decision-makers; and to draft a comprehensive media and communications strategy for the implementation of UNSCR 1325 and the supporting Women, Peace and Security (WPS) resolutions in the country.
The workshop combined expert presentations on the media landscape in Nigeria, gender and WPS in the media with hands-on sessions during which the participants discussed the representation of women in the Nigerian media. The participants analyzed the content of major Nigerian daily newspapers and observed that only between 5 and 10 per cent of stories feature women. Moreover, these stories stereotype women as victims or project them in their traditional roles as mothers and wives. The broader spectrum of women’s roles as leaders, political figures, voters, change-makers and peacebuilders is not recognized by the media.
Building on these observations, the journalists were asked to identify concrete strategies to strengthen the role of the Nigerian media in implementing the WPS agenda. As Ms. Bridget Osakwe, the National Network Coordinator of WANEP-Nigeria, put it, “Media is a key partner in promoting broad public awareness and therefore effectively implementing UNSCR 1325. We want each journalist to ask themselves a question: what can I do to promote this agenda, and make sure the representation of women in the Nigerian media is changed?”
Some of the concrete commitments made by the journalists include: establishment of a network of Nigerian journalists working on UNSCR 1325 that will serve as a venue to disseminate and share information that is useful for media coverage; production of radio segments focused on WPS; translating materials on UNSCR 1325 into local languages; and writing monthly columns on issues related to WPS.
“If a story is good, it will be published”, emphasized one of the participants. The media landscape in Nigeria is challenging, and journalists find it hard to publish or broadcast many important issues in a highly competitive environment. The participants identified human interest stories, profiles of women mediators; in-depth analysis of the changing role of women in North-Eastern Nigeria in relation to the insurgency, as well as investigative reports about women’s participation in governance and insurgency as media worthy materials, which would help highlight the importance of WPS.
The journalists left the workshop inspired and motivated to change the way women’s roles are depicted in the coverage of peace and security issues in the Nigerian media. “Change is possible. But we need to be deliberate about it, and make sure we upturn the narrative and put the women at the center” – concluded one of the participants.