About fifty women from public, private and community media took part in a training workshop organized by UNESCO and financed by The Postcode Foundation, to promote the security of female journalists online and offline on March 10th-12th, 2020.
Strengthening the prevention and care of women journalists exposed to specific types of violence online and offline was the objective of this workshop, held from March 10th-12th in Dakar, and which brought together women in journalism, representatives of media organizations and gender experts from Senegal. For three days, participants were trained in safety issues pertaining to their profession. In the context of a patriarchal society, where most Senegalese women still live under the weight of a social construction that encourages them to be silent, submissive and excluded from the decision-making processes within their communities, a significant increase in violence towards women has been noted. Women journalists are no exception. In fact, the struggles from which they suffer in silence are only "a reflection of what society is in general", asserts Eugénie AW, former director of the Center for Information Science and Technology Studies (CESTI), who shared her experiences with her counterparts while attending the workshop.
Harassment, stigmatization, cyber-sexism, sexist hate speech, physical assault, rape and deepfake, these terms echo the experiences of many women within newsrooms, online or on the field. According to a preliminary study conducted with local Senegalese media outlets, it is clear that sexual harassment is the most widespread form of violence against women in journalism. "I know today that I was the victim of harassment", acknowledges a sports journalist on March 10th, 2020. Her experience occurred a few years ago, "One day I received messages from a man on Facebook. At first, he seemed to be encouraging my work, but very quickly, he deviated, making me indecent proposals. And when I said no, he started to criticize me, threaten me, insult me ...” she recalled. “The worst part is that we are harassed both outside and inside. If they are not politicians, they are our colleagues; through their words, looks, indecent remarks and barely veiled proposals”, added another journalist.
Before this training, many of the participants noted that they did not have enough knowledge on the issue to identify or report the harassment from which they fell victim to. "It is therefore the goal of this workshop to put at your disposal the necessary tools, so that those who have platforms will know how to make full use of them, in order to change mentalities and change the status quo", stressed Michel Kenmoe, Regional Advisor for the Communication and Information Sector for UNESCO’s Dakar Office, representing the Director at the opening ceremony of the workshop, in the presence of Mr. Ciré Lo, director of cabinet for the Minister for Women, Family and Gender. At the end of this activity, several recommendations were made. Among other things, the formalization of an association or network of women journalists in Senegal, the development of gender policies in newsrooms, the promotion of women in journalism to positions of responsibility and the introduction of modules on the safety of women journalists in school training programs.
This activity is part of a project to promote the safety of women journalists financed by the Swedish Postcode Lottery Foundation and implemented in Senegal, Mali, India and Sri Lanka. It complements UNESCO’s broader efforts to address gender-specific threats both online and offline through research, capacity building and awareness-raising, within the framework of the UN Plan of Action for the Safety of Journalists and the Issue of Impunity.