The African Women in Media (AWIM) Conference 2023 reached a historic conclusion at the Kigali Marriott Hotel, where the closing ceremony marked the establishment of the Kigali Declaration on the Elimination of Gender Violence in and through Media. Dr. Yemisi Akinbobola, co-founder of AWIM, delivered a compelling address, underscoring the pivotal role media organizations must play in dismantling stereotypes and promoting gender equality.
During the ceremony, Dr. Yemisi emphasized the urgency for the media industry to proactively reshape narratives surrounding gender violence and expressed appreciation for everyone’s unwavering participation in making the event a success.
“I’ve been overwhelmed by the presentations, well wishes, and all of you approaching me, telling me how impactful this event has been. Thank you so much for your participation. We have over one hundred people who came from outside Rwanda for this conference,” she said.
Dr. Yemisi urged attendees not to remain silent on gender-based violence but to actively commit to spreading awareness within their respective organizations about the Kigali Declaration.
“The principles we just adopted mark a symbolic turning point in the fight against gender violence. Let’s consider ourselves champions of this Kigali Declaration as we return to our normal day-to-day work and life,” she stated.
Dr. Yemisi further called upon participants to commit to organizing meetings within their organizations to discuss and promote the Kigali Declaration in the coming week.
With the theme “Media and Gender Violence,” this year’s conference focused on uniting and setting a higher bar in the media’s commitment to addressing how it reports gender-based violence and creating an enabling environment for women journalists.
Dr. Uwamariya Valentine, the Minister of Gender and Family Promotion in Rwanda, commended the collective commitment demonstrated throughout the conference. Stressing the powerful influence of media in shaping societal attitudes, Dr. Uwamariya urged media practitioners to leverage their voice, graphics, videos, and all channels to advocate for the elimination of gender-based violence.
She praised the Kigali Declaration as a testament to joint determination in the fight against gender violence and expressed Rwanda’s firm stance in eradicating any form of violence.
“Rwanda stands firm with its unwavering support for initiatives challenging harmful stereotypes, advocating for gender equality, and fostering secure spaces for women in the media industry,” stated Dr. Uwamariya Valentine.
Furthermore, Dr. Uwamariya acknowledged that, despite Rwanda’s significant efforts in creating a safer environment for women, there is still a long way to go. She called upon everyone, especially those in media houses, to continue engaging in crucial conversations and unite for repeatable actions aimed at eradicating gender-based violence worldwide.
“This commitment doesn’t conclude here. I urge every participant to continue this crucial conversation within your spheres of influence. Let us unite in amplifying the voices of women in media to contribute to a more reputable and just society,” she highlighted.
The intersection of media and gender violence encompasses how media portrays gender and perpetuates violence based on gender identity. This includes not only physical violence but also psychological, sexual, and economic forms. Recent statistics underscore the persistent global issue of gender-based violence, disproportionately affecting women and girls. Women in media, too, have faced long-standing gender-based discrimination and various forms of violence in their professional lives, including sexual harassment.
As the AWIM23 Rwanda conference brought together a diverse group, including media practitioners, academia, policy actors, and civil society organizations, to share best practices and strategize actions to address these pressing issues, its closing ceremony served as a powerful reminder that the fight against gender violence requires a united front, with media playing a pivotal role in shaping attitudes and fostering positive change. The Kigali Declaration stands as a result of collaborative efforts, demonstrating how media can be a powerful force in creating a more equitable and inclusive future for all.