Second National Media Fellowship Launch Event Aims to Combat Gender-Based Violence and Child Marriages

Pakistan (Muhammad Yasir)
The official launch of the second National Media Fellowship (NMF) – an innovative step aimed at addressing and raising awareness about the pressing issues of gender-based violence (GBV) and child marriages in the society – held on Otherday.
The fellowship a collaborative effort made by the Centre for Excellence in Journalism at the Institute of Business Administration (CEJ-IBA), the National Commission on the Status of Women (NCSW) and the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), and it is set to make a significant impact on the discourse surrounding these critical issues.
The Caretaker Federal Minister for Human Rights Mr. Khalil George, attended the launch as the chief guest for the evening. He congratulated NCSW-UNFPA and CEJ-IBA for making efforts to curb the violence against women and to create awareness on the issue of child marriage. He further said that Media’s role is very crucial and incredible as a watchdog that is carrying  sensitive responsibility to portray these issues in our society.
He added “journalists are very important segment in recent societies and particularly for democratic government. By sensitizing and training them on these issue we can create a more respectful and enabling environment for women and girls of Pakistan, said the federal minister”.
National Commission on the Status of Women (NCSW) in collaboration with UNFPA & CEJ-IBA initiated a media fellowship in 2022 to sensitize & train the journalists to report gender related issues with a gender lens. In the first cycle of NMF, 37 journalists were trained on the theme and they produced 162 stories in addition to 2 documentaries related to GBV, Child marriages and impact of climate on women which was published in the leading media houses across the country. The second cycle of the same will train & sensitize 40 Journalists across the country.
NCSW Chairperson Ms. Nilofar Bakhtiar on this occasion said that according to a 2022 UNFPA document, 32 per cent of women have experienced violence in Pakistan. On the other hand, resources and rehabilitation for women survivors remain scarce. 
Child marriage is another deep-rooted issue across Pakistan, especially in rural areas, that takes away a child’s right to a safe and healthy childhood, quality education that can lead to decent economic opportunities, and social and political empowerment. Children, especially girls, who marry at young age are at higher risk of domestic violence and abuse.  Pakistan has nearly 19 million child brides, according to the UNICEF. The UN children’s agency estimates that around 4.6 million girls were married before the age of 15 and 18.9 million before they turned 18.
Dr Luay Shabaneh, Representative UNFPA said “Gender-based violence, child marriage and other harmful practices are not women’s issues. These are issues of the society at large as the roots of these practices lie in intrinsic belief systems and social norms which move societies to take action. UNFPA has joined hands for this media fellowship to use the power of journalism to normalize the conversation about gender-based violence and family planning at community level so the social barriers can be addressed.  
CEJ Director Ms. Amber Rahim Shamsi said that the fellowship is a remarkable to opportunity to learn and unlearn, delve deep into the systems and structures underpinning GBV, polish digital and data journalism skills, and produce impactful stories as documentaries, multi-media reports and investigative pieces. For years, the CEJ has trained thousands of journalists. But this fellowship is special – it is not a workshop, it is a catalyst for change, so the media can drive conversations beyond hashtags such as #Justicefor Rizwana, Fatima, Zainab and Noor.