Putting women in the driver’s seat of development

Thu., March 8, 2018

Journalists for Human Rights work in the South Sudan is an excellent case study in prioritizing women’s voices and concerns.

Anna Nimiriano. the editor of the Juba Monitor, talks at a workshop in Juba, South Sudan recently. (JOURNALISTS FOR HUMAN RIGHTS). Link to image.

It’s 11 a.m. in Juba, at a gathering of women journalists — the first such workshop exclusively for women to be held in South Sudan.

Anna Nimiriano is the editor of the Juba Monitor, South Sudan’s most influential newspaper. Prominent women’s activist Irene Ayaa stands next to Anna to share a story of what can happen when women journalists work together.

“It was the midst of the return to conflict in July 2016,” says Ayaa. “The city had been shelled. Reports circulated of 300 dead in Juba, and others fleeing to Uganda, Kenya. But not Anna Nimiriano.”

As bullets flew across Juba, Anna and Irene marched off to Juba’s notorious Blue House prison. They went to demand the release of sector eminence and editor/publisher of the Juba Monitor, Alfred Taban. Taban was in jail for an editorial calling for a rethink of leadership in SouthSudan. He’d been put in jail without his diabetes medication.

At the very minimum, the women wanted to make sure he had his meds. They ended up petitioning — successfully — for his release.

Journalists for Human Rights (JHR) is Canada’s leading media development organization. It has been working in South Sudan for the past two years with Canadian government support. JHR, which I run, has been fortunate to work with female journalists of Anna and Irene’s calibre. This has put considerable firepower behind JHR’s gender strategy in the world’s newest country.

JHR’s gender strategy is simple: mentor women, like Nimiriano, into positions of leadership in media. Work with these women to help them own their leadership role. Thus empowered, these women work together to tackle difficult issues, such as Taban’s jailing.

They also depoliticize coverage in favour of putting so-called women’s concerns — stories about health, education, child welfare and the environment — high up the agenda. Putting a spotlight on women’s issues helps prioritize solutions. The result is often both good for communities, and good for the outlet’s business.

Link to article.


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