The role of media in promoting the Women, Peace, and Security Agenda in Africa

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Remarks by HE Mme Bineta DIOP, Special Envoy on Women, Peace and Security of the Chairperson of the African Union Commission: At the 7th AMLF

Your Excellency, Dr. Ameenah Gurib-Fakim, President of the Republic of Mauritius,

Mr Eric Chinje, CEO, African Media Initiative,

Honorable Ministers and Members of Parliaments,

Excellencies Members of the Diplomatic Corps and Heads of International Organizations,

Leaders of African Media Houses,

Members of the African Media Leaders Forum,

Distinguished guests, Ladies and Gentlemen

 

It is a great pleasure and honor for me to be here today to address this Forum of African Media Leaders. I wish to thank the leadership of Africa Media Initiative for giving me this opportunity to be part of this noble gathering. I bring greetings and best wishes form the Chairperson of the African Union Commission, HE Dr. Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma who  values highly the role of the media on our continent.

 

From the outset, I wish to salute the Africa Media Initiative for recognizing the vision for transformation that carries the African Union Agenda 2063, the Africa we want”  and the clear commitment  that comes out of the concept note of this Forum. Indeed, as again put in the Concept note and stipulated in Agenda 2063, it is high time that  African Media  contributes to the African drive to “ Take Ownership of the African narrative and brand it to ensure that it reflects continental realities, aspirations and priorities and Africa’s position in the world”.

History has shown that the media can incite people toward violence. In Africa, several cases allow understanding this reality. Back in 1994, the Rwanda’s radio RTLM urged listeners to pick up machetes and take to the streets to kill what they called ‘the cockroaches.’ In Kenya, the specific context of post-electoral the 2007-2008 violence, vernacular radio stations allowed the broadcast of hate messages that directly incited ethnic hatred and violent action.

 

The quintessential change that the Agenda 2063 carries is that of breaking the cycle of violence, silencing the guns and having a peaceful, united and developed continent, fully driven by its own people, especially relying on the potential offered by its women and youth. The media has an immense role to play in this endeavor.

 

A key component of this drive for change is the role of women in the transformation of the continent. The choices made by the African Union to dedicate the first 2 years of the 10 years Implementation of Agenda 2063 are telling. Indeed, 2015 was declared the “Year of Women Empowerment and Development towards Agenda 2063”, while 2016 will be the “The Year of Women Rights”.

 

In the last 15 years or also, Africa has played a leading role in changing the narrative and enhancing the role of women. Today the Africa Union Commission remains the only continental organization that has adopted and applies a parity policy for its top leadership.  Africa is the continent that contributes the highest number of female peacekeepers. Africa has come very strongly against sexual exploitation and abuse, both in times of conflict and peace, with a clear zero-tolerance policy within its own peace support operations.

 

Yet, we know that the progress made remains very modest. We continue to hear reports on abuses of women and girls, we continue to hear about cases of impunity. Africa is rising but the face of poverty, the most telling structural violence is the face of women, from those in IDPs camps, in refugees’ centres to the majority in rural areas.

 

The media needs to play a catalytic role in changing this status of affairs.

It is well established that the Media act as an independent ‘watchdog’ that provide feedback to the public on local problems. Media can bring hidden stories out into the public.  Investigative reports can surface public problems.

Media has also been found to provide a protective effect when it focuses on initiatives against violence towards women. For example, in Sierra Leone, a video depicting the serious impacts and extent of sexual violence instigated discussion on the impact of the civil war in that country. The film, titled ‘Operation Fine Girl: Rape Used as a Weapon of War in Sierra’, was produced by human rights activists with the international non-governmental organization WITNESS. The film demonstrated how media productions can play an important complementary role alongside other post conflict reconciliation processes to promote awareness of critical social issues and bring them into the public arena so they can be addressed.

 

Mobilizing this kind of capacity of the Media to draw attention to problems, to engage the public into active participation in addressing societal challenges is much in line with AMI resolve to contribute to the Africa we want, an Africa women are not victims but are fully empowered with equal access and opportunity in all spheres of life, including in the Media.

 

Data show that a very limited presence of women in the Media Leadership.  In Liberia for example, there are close to 40 registered newspapers and out of that number, only one has had a female editor that rose through the rank of news editor and editor-in-chief. There are 52 community radio stations now operating across the country and only two The Liberia Women Democracy Radio established in 2010 and Radio Cestos established in 2005 have females as Heads. This can be seen in many other African Countries.

When will the Media have its own parity?

 

I strongly believe that increasing the numbers and quality of women in the leadership of the African media and that of men who have a gender lens will provoke a shift in the narrative and boost the participation of women in public spheres, political, economic and social as well as in the private sector.

 

Media is game changer, a public educator that can profoundly reach out and change our youth through, inter alia, the use of social media to raise awareness on bad practices, promote initiatives that are working and share solutions.

 

The journey toward an integrated, peaceful and developed Africa can only reach its destination with the full contribution of a proactive, engaged, enabling African Media.

We count on you,

 

I thank you for your kind attention.

 

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