MAGE-SL  Bonds  Journalists and Community Action Teams to  ensure Gender Justice

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By Mustapha Sanassie Biro

Gender activists stood their grounds in November to  sound the alarm  bell against abuses on women and girls in West Africa, and the  world  as  a whole.

The alarming rate of sexual  and gender-based  violence is clearly interpreted as a bane in  society which the crusaders are trying to nip in the bud.

The Men Association for Gender Equality- Sierra Leone (MAGE-SL) along with SONKE Gender Justice Network based in South Africa held two days training workshop (26th and 27th November last year) on Citizen Journalism, at the GGEM Building, 57 John Street, Freetown.

The identity of the project is: Rights, Action and Accountability:  supporting Community Mobilization and State Accountability for Gender Justice in Africa.

The training was funded by the Norwegian Agency for Development (Norad); targeting mostly Community Action Team (CAT) members and five media professionals. The latter were very supporting to the gender experts throughout the two days training. Their presence was critical in that they were able to drive experts into local content flavor to arrest and utilize the average ability of local informants and to meet designed outcomes.

The purposes of the training was mainly to: educate CAT members on the important roles that citizen journalism can play in raising awareness of issues their communities face, while also holding duty bearers to account;  educate media on how they can use CAT members as reputable sources of information and use the information to create stronger, local stories on issues of gender-base violence; capacitate CATs with practical ways to become stronger, reputable sources of content – for the media, for MAGE, for their community; create important connections and allow for sharing between CATSs and the media; and introduce MAGE to how SONKE uses different forms of media to advance advocacy goals.

The training was rich in content, and the style of presentation was suitable to Sierra Leonean context. The experts like the professional journalists strive for adequate appreciation of contents, which was complemented by practical but interactive application. Many issues were addressed and key among the list were: those common in communities; concise but clear approach to what is citizen journalism; social media as key sources of receiving and disseminating information; ethics and responsibilities for citizen journalists; fact checking –involving accuracy and verification, among others.

Significant to note was that enough room was allowed to identify and suggest possible ways by which resisting norms to citizen journalism could be addressed. In the same vein, participants were taken through the auditions, the concept of citizen journalism went through to enjoy its present status. “Citizen Journalism was misconstrued from the idea that professional journalists were also citizens. Yet, what gave the victory and stability to the classification was that the approach is all-encompassing and or joint. It gave ways for those who have been branded the voiceless, now actively making their voices heard,”   Quoting Karen Robertson, Communications and Strategic Information Manager, SONKE Gender Justice. She added that the role citizen journalism plays cannot be overemphasized.

The training was closed with vows and sharing plans of actions for implementations by CAT members, the media’s readiness to utilize the trained CAT members, and recommendations to extend the competent building to more communities to meet target goals at national level.

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Abu Bakarr Tarawally is a Journalist based in Freetown. He works for the Sierra Leone Broadcasting Corporation as a radio producer. He has once served as Editor for a few newspapers in Freetown, including Sierra Express Media, The Exclusive Newspaper and his own newspaper, the Daily Express Publications. He is a teacher trainer, and loves writing and reading a lot. Email: abstarawally@gmail.com. Call +232 88601277 or +2327661303.

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