5th webinar series on: ‘The Role Of Media In Advancing SRHR and Gender Rights Amidst COVID-19’
The 5th webinar series was organized by Uganda Youth and Adolescents Health Forum in partnership with She Decides Uganda movement and Health Journalists Network in Uganda (HEJNU) took place on 18th June 2020 from 4:00 – 5:30 pm. The webinar featured five amazing panelists; Maritza, Content developer, Raymond Mujuni, Investigative Journalist, and show host at Nation Media Group, Lillian Magezi, New Visions Chief Editor on health and RMNCAH Champion, Evelyn Lirri, Freelance Journalist and finally, Ester Nakazi, Founder and President of HEJNU.
The webinar was moderated by Apio Winnie, the Program Manager of UYAHF and it was attended by 73 (35 f and 38 m) participants from various organizations. The webinar was organized under a major objective to create and sustain interest and motivation among journalists to cover SRHR and gender rights. It was shared that various media platforms have reached the entire population with authoritative information about the status of sexual reproductive health and the ongoing widening gender gap. What’s more, the media has shown its power to focus public attention on the ongoing import issues around SRHR amidst COVID-19.
One of the presidential directives to curb down the spread of COVID-19 was the requirement to acquire permission from the president’s representative in the district, the Resident District Commissioner (RDC) for any emergency travels. This was discussed as something impractical as the RDC’s offices are not easily accessible for the majority of people. The media also brought to light several maternal and sexual reproductive health challenges that people in the communities were facing. The stories reported ranged from several pregnant women who died or lost their children in the process of reaching the health facilities, pregnant women who have resorted to having traditional doctors deliver their children, a rise in the number of domestic violence cases, unsafe abortion mortalities and a lack of services for adolescents and young people. Although some communities found innovative ways to transport pregnant women to health centers, these challenges spiked conversations and advocacy opportunities that saw policy markers making adjustments to the measures, especially around maternal health.
There is most certainly a need to fully harness and utilize the important role that the media can play in advancing the sexual reproductive health rights of young people in Uganda. The media are a powerful tool in fighting gender-based violence and illuminating the various sexual reproductive health challenges being faced amidst COVID-19. However, within the media, there are still existing gaps in using a gender lens when addressing the uprise of grave gender-related challenges that have come up as a result of the COVID-19 response. With the increased challenges among adolescents and young people, there is a need to build the capacity of the media on internalizing and conceptualizing new evidence, mastering correct and effective reporting to address adolescent related challenges, and pre-empt discussions on improving the quality of health and well-being of adolescents and young people.
Evelyn Lirri a freelance journalist shared some common mistakes made by the journalists. She emphasized that due to the media coverage, a lot of issues have been raised but the challenge remains with little attention in terms of interventions. Most of the stories reported are sensational hence attracting a lot of attention from the public but not giving concrete solutions to problems. She gave an example of the current story of the 60 teenage mothers that despite the media coverage, ignored the causes of these pregnancies and the issues of sexual abuse weren’t mentioned at all.
Raymond Mujuni a Ugandan investigative journalist gave insights on how we can achieve gender equality in the newsrooms. He stated that the newsrooms don’t support female reporters and they heavily invest in politics at the expense of health so his concern was on how we can understand gender issues, how we can reform, and ensure more women are on top. When we have women in decision-making positions then we shall have issues of gender and SRHR since they are better placed to share their experiences. He noted that all new rooms across the country are dominated by men but of recent changes as many media houses have started to include women.
Maritza a content developer mentioned that surely the entertainment industry can adverse the spread of SRHRs information and confirmed that the COVID issue has resulted in a positive change of audience where entertainers can no-longer reach their targets like students due to lack of face to face interactions. Entertainers have also increased the social responsibility among themselves to covey messages even though most of it is about COVID-19 leaving a huge gap on the various topics such as gender, SRHR among others.
Esther Nakazzi founder and president of HEJNU shared the ideas on how CSOs can bring the media on board by emphasizing the need to do advocacy that is evidence-based. For instance, if girls are pregnant we could find out why and what needs to be done to stop others from becoming victims of sexual abuse, transactional sex, or child marriage. They need to make sure they put faces to these stories so that people in the communities can easily relate and understand.
Lillian Magezi from New Vision emphasized the role of data, such as helping the media in reporting research, which calls for continuous engagement with media houses, as well as the need to create rapport between the journalists and the researchers so that they make the findings informal for the journalists to understand and disseminate them accordingly. She emphasized the need to build capacities of journalists by sharing information, interesting them with the topic of discussion so that they can make press releases more engaging.
Some of the recommendations shared included:
- Involving the media in the inception of projects and not to bring them at the end to just report success stories.
- The need for artists to use their talents to influence change by making decision-makers accountable.
- The need to hold the entertainment industry accountable for their services that do not benefit us.
- Involving the media and entertainment industry in our programs and give them information that they can report on SRHR and gender equality.
- To always work as a team, seeing the media as partners and working together to serve the people.