Kigali Declaration outlines African commitment to eliminating gender violence in and thorough the media

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Kigali Declaration outlines African commitment to eliminating gender violence in and thorough the media

Participants at the African Women in Media (AWiM) Conference 2023 agreed on principles for change by adopting the Kigali Declaration on the Elimination of Gender Violence in and through Media at the event’s closing session on 1 December.

The action-oriented document addresses gender-based violence in news media organizations and its representation in news media content. The Declaration

  • asserts that African media have the power to shape narratives and inform public knowledge on all forms of gender violence;
  • recognizes the urgent need for principles to guide media in reporting on gender-based violence and in adequately combating gender-based violence experienced by staff in the line of duty; and
  • sets out baseline measures for different groups of stakeholders in the media sector.

Participants helped to further shape the draft of the Declaration, prepared by representatives from the media sector, academia, and civil society in a consultatory process chaired by Sarah Macharia, global coordinator of WACC’s Global Media Monitoring Project (GMMP).

Shifting news portrayal of gender violence

Findings from the GMMP indicate that gender-based violence, the most pervasive form of human rights violation, is hardly newsworthy. In Africa, just 1% of stories cover this topic across all news platforms,” Macharia said during the keynote panel on media and gender violence.

The shortcomings in gender violence news reporting have consequences for the lived experience of girls and women, the WACC gender and media expert stressed.

She pointed to the need for balanced and non-stereotyped portrayal to shift discriminatory social norms underlying power asymmetries that enable gendered violence to continue and that normalize and excuse it.

“The Declaration marks a milestone for concerted commitment to change the picture,” she affirmed.

Combatting violence against women in media

Macharia said that the Declaration acknowledges that women working in the media sector are subjected to gender-based violence and establishes the need for media-related entities to address all forms of violence against women in the physical and online workplace.

Agneta Soderberg Jacobson, senior gender advisor at the Fojo Media Institute, said that research by her institute and AWiM shows the deep impact of sexual harassment and gendered discrimination on women in media.

“The fact that women journalists consider leaving or have left the media sector because of sexual harassment is unacceptable. The Kigali Declaration has the potential to change the situation for the better,” she stressed.

Committing to change

Conference participants are calling on the media industry, media professionals, media organisations, civil society, and researchers to adopt and promote the Declaration.

“The Declaration is an action plan that sets a minimum standard for all stakeholders that impacts how media functions concerning African women and how gender-based violence is discussed in media,” stated Yemisi Akinbobola, AWiM co-founder and CEO.

She urged individuals and organizations to sign the Declaration on its dedicated website. “By being signatories, they say they will abide by these minimum standards set for them as stakeholders by the Declaration.”

Akinbobola announced that support for signatories to take on related projects would soon be available through a grant component of the Declaration.

Sarah Macharia, WACC program manager for Gender and Communication, speaks as a part of the AWiM 2023 keynote panel on media and gender violence.
Photo: AWiM