A guide on reproductive rights reporting will soon be available to Journalists in Cameroon as part of Sisterspeak237 Reproductive Rights Reporting project.
Sisterspeak237, a non-governmental organization founded by award-winning journalist, Comfort Mussa is taking the bold step of championing the need to tell underreported stories, especially taboo subjects .
The organisation recently organized a two-day reproductive rights reporting workshop in Yaounde with
40 journalists from six regions in attendance.
The journalists were schooled on techniques of reporting reproductive health issues.
Funded by the Canadian High commission to Cameroon, the project saw the light of day thanks to collaboration from the Cameroon Association of Gynecologists and Obstetricians- SOGOC.
Comfort Mussa says she was inspired to organize the workshop because reproductive health stories are particularly underreported in mainstream media in Cameroon.
“We have been working with the Cameroon Society of Gynecologists. Through our work with them, we’ve learnt that over 30% of maternal mortalities and morbidities in Cameroon are caused by unsafe abortions. So for two years now, we’ve been doing projects to break the silence around unsafe abortions and access to reproductive health care services for women,” said Comfort Mussa, founder of Sisterspeak237
The Reproductive Rights Reporting Project in Four Phases
The project will be executed in 4 phases- the workshop being the is the first. After the workshop ,
Comfort Musa says public health experts and some veteran journalists have begun working on a reproductive rights reporting guide.
Thereafter, the guide will be launched and made available to journalists in Cameroon in French and English, free of charge. It will be available online and offline.
In November, an exchange with SOGOC, medical doctors and other researchers on reproductive rights will be organized with the aim of “bridging the gap that exists because many journalists who want to report on reproductive health.”
They “sometimes don’t know where to get information and how to interpret the data,” according to Comfort.
The fourth phase of the project is providing support to 15 journalists who are interested in reproductive rights reporting from now till March 2023.
Reproductive Health in Cameroon
The reproductive rights situation in Cameroon is a cause for concern. Experts say unsafe abortions account for up to 30% of the total maternal death rates.
According to Prof. Fomulu Nelson, Vice President of the SOGOC, Cameroon’s maternal mortality rate is still very high. “Cameroon has one of the highest maternal death rates on earth. The government has done a few things to reduce it, but it’s still 406 deaths per 100000 live births. 460 Cameroonian women die yearly.”
The workshop on reproductive rights reporting is a great advancement in fine tuning reporting on sensitive health issues like Fistula, abortion or contraception which is still a taboo in many communities in Cameroon.
This is why the role of journalists in educating the public is crucial. According to Jameen Kaur, an expert from the International Federation of Gynecologists, and workshop facilitator, this narrative can be changed.
“There are a number of ways journalists can properly report on reproductive rights issues. One of the ways is looking at it from a public health lens, and another way is looking at it as human right issues. Cameroon has made many promises, and it’s important for journalists to keep tract and make sure these words turn into action”.
Take Home Messages
The two-day workshop was a time for journalists to deepen their knowledge on reproductive rights issues and sharpen their reporting skills.
“I have learnt how to pitch stories on reproductive health rights, and make the newsroom see why such reports should be in the news no matter how sensitive they are,” said Promise Akanteh, Editor-in-Chief of Royal FM in Yaounde.
“The first thing I have learnt is that the right to child bearing is a human right and women have the right to determine when to have babies and how to space them out. I have also learnt other forms of medical abortions that are legal in Cameroon,” said Ndi Tsembom Elvis, Publisher of The Observer 237 blog.
Kathy Neba Sina