Chouchou Namegabe overcomes obstacles many journalists hope they never have to face. She’s a radio reporter using her medium to bring perpetrators of terror rape to justice in South Kivu while she helps educate her community by presenting the stories of victims of the epidemic that is destroying the fabric of Congolese society. When I heard her speak last night at a panel in the offices of Women’s eNews, I was greatly impressed by her ability to overcome her natural shyness to talk about such a distressing topic.
The subject before the panel was media coverage of violence against women in the Democratic Republic of Congo. As a founder of the South Kivu Women’s Media Association (AFEM), Namegabe is well-qualified to talk about the difficulties she and her colleagues face.
Namegabe demonstrated the professionalism that won her a 2009 Fern Holland Award from Vital Voices when she spoke about the difficulties of choosing the right words to describe rapes and other forms of violent assault on women in a society where the subject of sex itself is largely taboo.
She also pointed out, “When a gorilla is killed in the Virunga park, the media make a big noise,” while they all but ignore the story of crimes that have ruined the lives of thousands of women.
Operating in a climate of fear and violent retribution hasn’t kept Namegabe from telling the stories that need to be told. She’s been working in radio since 1997, interviewing rape victims and putting their words on the air with the most basic of broadcast gear. Even much of that was stolen recently when brigands broke into the tiny community station and took not only much of the equipment but the priceless archived recordings compiled over the years by Namegabe and her colleagues as well.
Still, she says, she will go on: “What gives me courage to continue my fight is the courage of those women.”
The South Kivu Women’s Media Association is a group of 42 women media professionals in Bukavu. The group leads radio listening groups in rural areas and airs educational programming to help de-stigmatize rape survivors.
Also on the panel were DRC Ambassador Faida Mitifu, Agnes M.F. Kamara-Umunna, a radio journalist from Liberia, and Mohamed Keita, Africa Researcher at the Committee to Protect Journalists. The discussion was moderated by Women’s eNews editor Dominique Soguel. I’ll be posting some of their comments soon.