09 Nov 2020 16 Days of Activism and the News Media in 2020
This month marks the start of the annual 16 Days of Activism against Gender-based Violence campaign running from November 25 to Human Rights Day December 10. Unlike previous years, lockdowns and curfews intended to arrest the spread of Covid-19 have led to a free-fall into GBV with impunity in 2020.
It is clear that in this extraordinary year the 16 days campaign needs to fall in line with the new reality of the pandemic within the pandemic; add #ShadowPandemic to the official theme ‘#RatifyILO190’ set before Covid-19 was even a thing, to draw attention to the unravelling of anti-GBV gains this year.
A Google search on the keyword GBV filtering for news results only, reveals that development organizations are leading the pack in communicating about the shadow pandemic which is violence against girls and women during the Covid-19 lockdowns.
A UN agency story reports how COVID-19 has led to a rise in the number of calls to a phone helpline for GBV survivors in Kenya.
A press release from the International Rescue Committee announces findings from a survey of refugee and displaced women in East Africa, West Africa, and the Great Lakes region pointing to sharp rises in domestic violence during the pandemic.
Only three stories in the top 10 results are from a news organisation: From the China Global Television Network (CGTN) an article about the Namibian President calling for public cooperation to rid the country of GBV; from the regional news aggregator website AllAfrica.com a story about men being trained to lobby for girls’ rights; and from Trinidad & Tobago’s TT Newsday an item about a virtual townhall meeting on ending GBV.
No doubt these results are determined by search algorithms driven by various factors, but the point is that GBV is as much of a crisis now as Covid-19, the quantity of news stories and depth of reporting on GBV should parallel those about Covid-19.
Far from a call for the media to participate in the 16 Days Campaign – indeed this is not their role – this is a reminder that the road to reflecting reality with fairness, balance and accuracy is still a long one.