Given the rise in the risk of violence against women and girls during the COVID-19 pandemic and the importance of ensuring accurate, ethical coverage of this critical issue, the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) Arab States Regional Office will organise a virtual media symposium for journalists and media professionals throughout the Arab States region, according to a statement from the UN agency.
The one-hour virtual symposium will be held on Thursday, ahead of the International Day for the Elimination of Sexual Violence in Conflict on June 19, and the Brussels conference on Supporting Syria and the Region on June 30. The event will be live-streamed on Facebook from 12 noon until 1pm Amman time, the statement said.
“Organisations working to combat gender-based violence worldwide have issued an unsettling amount of reports showing that more violence is occurring against the backdrop of the COVID-19 pandemic,” commented Luay Shabeneh, UNFPA Regional Director, Arab States.
“Given that many of these reports have come from Arab State organisations, it is vital for journalists in the region to not only increase coverage of this issue but to do so in a professional, survivour-centred manner,” Shabeneh said in the statement.
The regional symposium will shed light on the underlying connections between health crises, gender equality and gender-based violence (GBV), the statement said.
UNFPA’s programme data shows that many of the measures deemed necessary for controlling a viral outbreak “not only exacerbate GBV-related risks by limiting the ability of survivors to distance themselves from their abusers, but they also limit or sever survivours’ access to life-saving support”, according to the statement.
Moreover, recent assessments by UNFPA show that the COVID-19 pandemic is likely to cause a one-third reduction in progress towards ending gender-based violence by 2030 and that, for every three months of lockdown, three million additional cases of gender-based violence are expected to be recorded.
For journalists who report on social justice and human rights, raising public awareness on the mounting challenges facing women and girls during this pandemic becomes “increasingly crucial”, especially given that a crisis of this magnitude can often reveal many of the underlying inequalities within communities, read the statement.
The media symposium will be moderated by Jordanian media specialist Suzanne Afanah and will feature insights from journalists with extensive experience covering gender-based violence, including Joumana Haddad from Lebanon and Nadine Nimri from Jordan, among others.
Practical insights will also be provided to facilitate reporting by journalists, including those by gender-based violence specialists, service providers in crisis countries, women’s rights activists and others.
“We encourage all journalists who are interested in exploring COVID-19 from a gender perspective and in covering gender-based violence more professionally to join the conversation on June 18 and benefit from a wide range of perspectives on the issue,” added Shabaneh.