For a very long time in Africa, Sex and related subjects have been deemed taboo. They could never be discussed openly. The scenario is slowly changing such that currently, subjects around sexual and reproductive health can be discussed within various groups including homes, churches and on media platforms very openly.
However, Journalists have played a major role in disseminating information, demystifying myths around sexual subjects which in turn spurred various conversations through their coverage, debates and interviews. Though they mention that it has not been easy covering such a sensitive subject. Some even risked losing their jobs for highlighting contentious issues such as contraception, abortion and LGBTQI rights! It took only the bold and passionate journalists to uncover the realities beneath the Sexual and Reproductive Health world.
During the recent awards ceremony held in Kigali on the sidelines of International Conference Family Planning (ICFP), award winning journalists shared reasons as to why they chose to report on health matters particularly sexual and reproductive health;
‘My mother got pregnant and gave birth to me at 14. Her education and dreams were greatly disrupted. She took time out to take care of me. My dad was on the other hand free to continue with education and pursue his dream. Which he did quite well. He even pursued further studies abroad and finally got a good job. I write from a place of painful understanding. Had my mum known much around contraception, she would not have deferred her education. She would have exploited her fullest potential. As such, many girls fail to achieve their dreams and full potential due to early pregnancies. A pregnancy can be the only thing that stands between ones’ dream” Said Joyce Chimbi, Winner Print Feature Article 750 words, From Kenya.
Moses Chifwembe, Runners up print feature 2500 words said, “While I loved sports and sports reporting, I was totally blind about things that happened to women and girls on the ground. But one day, I witnessed something during my work that made me switch from being a sports reporter to a health reporter. However, convincing my editor about my decision was not easy. He asked me to write three articles around the issues that I felt I wanted to cover after which he would make the decision whether to accept my request or turn it down altogether. I did as he had requested and amazingly he published all the three articles” Said Chifwembe, Zambia
On his part, Logan Koffi, Runners Up Print Feature 750 words Said “Having hailed from one of Togos’ rural areas, I saw how women and girls struggled to access health services especially reproductive health services. These women happened to be my neighbors, mother and sisters. Ten years ago, when I launched my career in journalism, I decided to focus on health reporting. Women in rural areas are adversely affected due to lack of SRH services. I am their voice. I believe that all women and girls have a right to information and access to SRH services and that no woman or girl should be denied this most important human right”
Abdel Aziz Nabaloum, Burkina Faso, winner print feature article 2500 words encouraged journalists from Africa to tell their own stories since they live and experience these issues first hand.
‘Let us tell our own stories, no one should tell them for us. We have first hand experience on issues that affect our people,’ Said Aziz
The awards ceremony sponsored by International Planned Parenthood Federation Africa Region had seven journalists across the continent scooping various prizes for their commitment to improve Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights for millions of girls and young women within the continent.