Journalists breaking boundaries to help end violence against women and girls

The UNICEF-supported Spotlight Initiative addresses negative socio-cultural norms, root causes of gender-based violence against women and girls; ensuring access to inclusive, timely, and quality services for those who have experience violence.

Khadijah Ibrahim Nuhu, Communications Consultant, UNICEF-Spotlight Initiative
A woman sitting down
11 August 2021

Abuja, August 2021 – Most will agree that ending violence against women and girls is a necessary goal, but one that often forces people outside of their comfort zones. This is particularly true for journalists, who must separate themselves from the subject matter and remain unbiased in their storytelling. And now some journalists are keen to use their platforms to try to help.

Journalists like Edoamaowo Udeme and other members of the media network set up by the Spotlight Initiative - a global, multi-year partnership between the European Union (EU) and United Nations to end all forms of violence against women and girls - are using editorials, feature stories and special reports to challenge the sometimes difficult narrative around violence and bring about positive change.

“Violence against women and girls is a silent epidemic in Nigeria. In the middle of the COVID-19 lockdown, I could only leave home to verify stories – but even with these limitations, I discovered the extent of violence that is being perpetrated against women and girls,” said Edoamaowo Udeme

A woman sitting down
Udeme Edoamaowo; journalist and gender activist

Udeme is first and foremost a journalist, but the extent of the epidemic of violence against women and girls has had an impact on her. Relying on news stories via phone and SMS, and only venturing out to verify before publishing, meant that she was relying on news reaching her first. What she found was that most of the stories that did come to her were related to domestic violence. She received up to 20 calls per day from women and children who were subjected to violence, which led to the creation of a Facebook page, ‘Movement Against Domestic Violence and other Related Issues’, later transformed into the Network Against Domestic Violence (NADV).

“NADV intervened in the case of a pastor that molested a 13-year-old girl. They traced her village outside of Abuja, wrote extensively about the case and secured the attention of prominent Nigerian journalists and the Ibom People's Union USA, who supported the family and more than 25 other victims of sexual and gender-based violence,” said Udeme.

A recent media dialogue on ethical and gender-sensitive reporting, advocacy and solutions journalism carried out by UNICEF has further strengthened the skills of journalists like Udeme. The media dialogue touched on issues such as the strategies journalists can use to advocate for causes actively and intentionally, in order to draw the attention of government and policy makers to the need to address gaps in funding and program implementation.

“Writing human angle stories helps me uncover under-reported stories, especially in hard-to-reach areas, so that the poor can speak out on issues affecting them - essentially being a lynchpin between the masses and the government. This is what excites me the most,” said Udeme.

“The UNICEF-led training gave me renewed energy for my work. Human-interest stories is what I love doing, so the training gave me a pathway to better reporting. Our visit to the traditional ruler in Jikwoi was an eye-opener - it exposed strategies the community adopted to tackle sexual and gender-based violence and gave birth to solutions story ideas I will work on,” said Udeme.

UNICEF Nigeria is implementing the Spotlight Initiative through effective media engagement; addressing negative socio-cultural norms, root causes of gender-based violence and harmful practices against women and girls (such as child marriage and female genital mutilation); ensuring access to inclusive, timely, and quality services for those who have experienced violence; strengthening and enabling legal and policy frameworks and coordinated institutions, in addition to community mobilization and empowerment.