Communication media as an agent for social change

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Raúl Salazar-UNISDR, Carmen Rosa Villa-ACNUDH, Moni Pizani-ONUMUJERES y César Nuñez-ONUSIDA. Foto: Julio Trelles -ACNUDH

On October 25, Panama City held the first interagency workshop for journalists and social communicators "Communication media as an agent of social change.” The workshop was organized by UN Women, UNAIDS, CINUP, UNDP, UNISDR, the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and the Secretary-General's UNiTE Campaign to end violence against women.

The workshop is part of the initiative "Orange Day", launched by the Global UNiTE Youth Network, which seeks to generate a debate on the need to end violence against women and girls with a call to action not only once a year, on November 25 (International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women), but also every month.

The workshop aimed to provide journalists with a clear view of the interrelationship of gender-based violence with other priority areas in the development agenda for Latin American countries, such as HIV, human rights and disaster prevention.

The Representative of the Regional Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Carmen Rosa Villa, told the media that "Women's Rights are Human Rights that must be promoted and defended." "Rape, femicide, and abuse in the private and public sphere, constitute a violation of human rights,” she added, to conclude that "a fair presentation of gender issues (in the media) is a professional and ethical aspiration similar to the respect for accuracy, justice and honesty."

In Latin America, 7 of 10 women physically abused in 15 countries in the region have been assaulted by their partners and almost half (47%) have been victims of at least one sexual assault during the course of their life. Specifically, in Central America, two out of three women murdered are killed by gender related issues. This is data offered by the Regional Director of UN Women for Latin America and the Caribbean, Moni Pizani, who added, "UN Women values its commitment to social change, with the vision of a more just, equitable and non-violent world. I would like to encourage you to continue on this path because journalists like you are the ones we need in order to eradicate this pandemic. We need all of you to inform governments, institutions, private sector, civil society, and citizens worldwide, of what is happening and how they can change things so that the figures are reduced until they are eliminated entirely."

Gender-based violence is both a cause and a consequence of HIV. Although no data are available at a regional level, qualitative studies from different countries in Latin America show how women living with HIV demonstrate this close relationship. "It is our responsibility to break this cycle" expressed UNAIDS Regional Director for Latin America, César A. Núñez. "Journalists as well as all other sectors of society must work together to reach a world of zero violence. Only then we can achieve the UNAIDS vision of zero new HIV infections, zero discrimination and zero AIDS-related deaths" added Núñez.

For its part, UNISDR Program Officer, Raúl Salazar, introduced a new variant in the analysis of the prevention of violence perpetrated against women and girls in natural disaster situations. "The best disaster recovery programs in the world take into account gender considerations, in particular, placing women who have survived the disaster, as actors in the planning and decision processes of recovery to development. If we were to build a real resilience to disasters, we must also emphasize the participation of women before these disasters occur. For this, it is necessary to consider the gender perspective in the construction of national plans, and the agencies in charge of disaster risk reduction in countries must consider women's organizations as key partners in the development of these plans," he concluded.

In addition, the workshop was an opportunity to share best practices in the proper journalistic approach and quality in relation to gender-based violence. Two experiences of national coordination of actions with journalists were highlighted, led by the National Institute for Women in Panama (INAMU) and the Gender Window Joint Programme and Violence against Women Programme, both of the UNDP. Also, from Argentina, the Communication Network IMLAS shared regional actions in the areas of media production, novels productions and advertising spots free from discrimination.

The workshop highlighted the fundamental role of journalism to help visualize this serious problem systematically, to protect women and not judge them, to inform without stereotypes, to report on missing State policies and provide useful data of places to go for help. "It is necessary to have a style manual that all journalists can use whenever you need to deal with a story like this, to help us take the right approach," noted journalist María del Pilar Méndez from the “Ellas” supplement of La Prensa newspaper. "And specialized training" added journalist Zaida Herrera from Radio KW Continente, "and it is important that the medium you work for supports you in this training process, it is the only way to reach a compromise with these issues, as has been the case of the successful campaign to prevent breast cancer that we have done in Panama" she concluded.

This joint initiative of various UN agencies in Panama with the media will be repeated annually and replicated at a regional level.

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