Brian implores African journalists

November, 2016
Dar es Salaam, Tanzania

At the recent UNFPA East and Southern African Region media advocacy workshop, EDOU’s Founder and Executive Director, Mr. Brian Mutebi implored journalists to improve reporting of women’s health issues, challenging them to dare report under-reported issues on family planning and reproductive health. “Go where it seems impossible, where it is risky, and, yes, hostile,” implored Brian. He stated that was the open secrete he had while reporting girls’ and women’s health and rights stories, which won him national and international awards and honours.

Indeed, in an article published by Reuters UK, Ms Katja Iversen, CEO of Women Deliver, thus wrote of Brian, “For more than decade, honouree Brian Mutebi has travelled to remote and dangerous places to provoke and stimulate change through his articles on girls’ and women’s health and rights.”

Brian advised journalists to put face to problems women and girls face in demand for and access to family planning and reproductive health services. “Writing that in the northern Uganda district of Gulu men are resistant to family planning is not enough,” he argued, “’Resistance’ can be invisible. Put face to it. When I travelled to Gulu and noticed the problem, I wrote a story, ‘Implants in untold places, Gulu’s family planning dilemma’. I showed how men were cutting their wives with laser blades to remove implants from their arms, and in effort to continue providing the service, midwives were putting implants in women’s buttocks where their husbands do not see. That is putting face to a problem.”

Brian further discussed the often-delicate subject of where the line is between journalism and advocacy. “There are certain things that are fundamentally wrong or right,” he argued, “So when writing, you may not just give information, but take a stand and advocate to see positive change.”

Brian, who was invited by UNFPA Uganda to speak and share his experience as an award-winning journalist and girls’ campaigner however cautioned journalists. “The motive in reporting health should never be to win awards. If anything, it is to be an advocate, to cause positive change in society, to transform lives, to improve the health and wellbeing of individuals. If you receive awards and honours in the process, those are ‘other things’ added unto you,” he argued, stressing that, “My mission is to use a pen to take up the case of girls and women.”

At the workshop, Dr. Kanyanta Sunkutu, UNFPA East and Southern African region technical specialist made a presentation on family planning myths and misconceptions. “Do you agree that ‘if it is simple, it is not scientific’? That is of course a myth,” he said. Kanyanta stated that myths are barriers to access and provision of family planning services.

Zuleide De Carvalho, a journalist from Angola said, “This has been a very informative workshop. Brian particularly shared useful insights on reporting health while Dr. Kanyanta’s presentation was rich in content on family planning.”

The workshop, held in the Tanzanian coastal city of Dar es Salaam, attracted journalists, communication experts and university lecturers from 12 countries from East and Southern Africa.