Spotlight pools local media power to end gender-based violence

UN Resident Coordinator, Maria Jose Torres, addressing the journalists during the training.

The Spotlight Initiative, a new programme aimed at ending violence against women and girls, has partnered with a network of journalists to leverage their influence in stamping out gender-based violence in Malawi.

The grouping, called Spotlight Media Network, formed by over 50 journalists covering all six districts where the Spotlight Initiative will be implemented in Malawi, aims to promote localised information dissemination, programming, and audience engagement on gender-based violence issues in the districts.

To ensure adequate capacity for effective media reporting on gender-based violence issues, the United Nations is providing capacity building support to members of the network in their efforts to raise awareness that violence against women and girls is unacceptable in society.

Addressing the network’s members at a media training in July, UN Resident Coordinator, Maria Jose Torres, said the media, particularly community radio stations, have significant power to bring transformative change in their communities so that women and girls do not suffer violence.

“Strong communications and advocacy at the local level is central to addressing violence against women and girls,” said Torres. “The media is key to both highlight the Spotlight interventions and change attitudes, practices and behaviors that drive violence against women and girls.”

She said the media partnership will ensure Spotlight communication is grounded in the local contexts where the programme will be implemented and not just at national level. She said this is key to understanding and changing attitudes, and advancing gender equality.

Said Torres: “Community-based journalists know the right language in which to communicate and engage with their audience, and how to approach sensitive issues related to violence against women and girls in their respective communities.

“We are therefore interested to see how the local media will be getting to people’s hearts and minds for them to understand that violence against women and girls is one of the most widespread, persistent and devastating human rights violations in our world today that must end.”

Spotlight Media Network Chairperson, Alex Banda, said their team will ensure issues and cases of violence against women and girls are brought into the spotlight in their communities so that they are addressed.

“Through our journalism, we hope to bring transformative change in the lives of women and girls in Malawi,” said Banda. “As journalists, we are keen to champion efforts to achieve gender equality and women’s empowerment.”

He said the network will utilise various media tools and approaches to ensure cases of gender-based violence are exposed and followed up for authorities’ actions, and that media reporting on the issues respects human rights principles, including protection of survivors of the violence.

The Spotlight Media Network was formed in December 2018 and largely includes journalists from community radio stations covering the six Spotlight districts of Mzimba, Nkhata Bay, Dowa, Ntchisi, Machinga and Nsanje.

Malawi Government is embarking on the Spotlight Initiative in partnership with the United Nations, European Union, civil society and local communities in the six districts. The Spotlight objective is to eliminate violence against women and girls, including sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV) and harmful practices. The programme is built around six inter-connected and mutually-reinforcing pillars focusing on laws and policies, institutions, prevention and social norms, services, data, and women’s rights movement – driving innovation and transformative programming to end violence.

Media trainer, Machlan Kanyang’wa, facilitating a session.

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