In 2018, Nigerian NGO PAGED Initiatives, a partner of Free Press Unlimited, released ‘Uprooted’. In this documentary, women and girls from Borno State, northeastern Nigeria, tell how they kept themselves and their family safe from armed group Boko Haram. Now the organisation is screening the documentary with local communities and taking the film as a starting point for more gender-balanced reporting from the region.

Resourceful

Starting in 2009, the Boko Haram insurgency threw Borno State in northeastern Nigeria into chaos. Traditional societal structures were disrupted. Local women and girls showed exceptional resourcefulness and courage in keeping their heads above water. As harrowing as their experiences often were, women did gain access to activities and decision-making powers that were previously beyond their reach.

After Borno State returns to normalcy, what will happen to this newfound independence? Will women step back into their traditional roles, or can they seize the opportunity to review these patterns? Free Press Unlimited believes the media has a role to play in asking these questions. By supporting the project Reporting Gender for Inclusive Development (RGID) we’re helping Nigerian journalists tell stories about gender roles in Borno and beyond.

Fellowship for better gender reporting

With support from Free Press Unlimited, PAGED Initiatives organises screenings of the documentary ‘Uprooted’ for communities across Borno. In many cases, the personal accounts shared by the women in the film spark an open and critical public debate about changing gender norms.

Ten senior journalists from other parts of Nigeria attend the screenings. They have been trained in gender-sensitive reporting and how to write engaging human interest stories about gender and the impacts of the Boko Haram insurgency. By writing about the screenings, they improve coverage of the conflict throughout Nigeria and bring a gender lens to the stories.

The 10 journalists have gone on to train and mentor another 10 journalists from Borno State. This mentorship is mutually beneficial: local journalists from Borno learn from the experience of more senior journalists. The mentors get the opportunity to deepen their understanding of the conflict and society in northeastern Nigeria.

New perspectives

The fellowship has already resulted in new kinds of stories in Nigeria’s national media. One reporter wrote a profile of a woman who protected other women living in camps for internally displaced people from rape. Another article by a fellow tells the story of a woman who set up her own business to sustain her family during the insurgency.

The RGID project in Nigeria sensitises media professionals and local audiences to gender issues and draws attention to women’s rights. In doing so, the project shines a light on the untapped potential of women as catalysts for development in Borno State and other parts of Nigeria.