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To break Silence: Sisterspeak237 schools journalists on Reproductive Rights Reporting

Some forty media practitioners from six regions of Cameroon have for two days converged in the political capital of Cameroon, Yaounde to get equipped with knowledge on Reproductive Rights reporting. 

The two days workshop saw the journalists lectured on the state of reproductive health in Cameroon, maternal mortality and morbidity,  random results of research on media coverage on issues of reproductive health in Cameroon, how to report sensitive topics like abortion, and journalists as change makers.

Coming at a time when sexual and reproductive health care issues are not talked about as they are considered taboos in society, participants were made to understand that delays in seeking health care, reaching skilled health care workers, and receiving health care while at health care facilities are causes of maternal mortality. 

Organized by SisterSpeak237 with support from the Canadian Fund for Local Initiatives, the CEO of SisterSpeak237 Mussa Comfort stated that for the past two years they have been working together with the Society of Gynaecologists in Cameroon who are committed to projects aimed at breaking the silence around under-reported issues. 

"Our motivation for this is linked to our commitment to telling under-reported stories. Reproductive health stories are underreported in mainstream media in Cameroon and we have been working with the society of gynecologists in Cameroon. Through our work with them, we have learned that over 30% of maternal mortalities and maternal morbidities are caused by unsafe abortions and we hardly hear of these things in mainstream media. so for two years running now we have been doing projects to break the silence around unsafe abortions and access to reproductive health care services for women but from a Communications based approach. so we reached out to the Canadian High Commission in Cameroon and they have been kind enough to support us with this. they believed in the vision, they have seen the need for journalists to understand reproductive rights issues in Cameroon and to report adequately on them", Mussa Comfort said.

Comfort Mussa, CEO of Sisterspeak237

With the workshop being the first in a four-part series Mussa Comfort stated that  SisterSpeak237 intends to provide a Reproductive Rights reporting guide for journalists. 

"So we are starting with the workshop today, we are working on a reproductive Rights reporting guide with some public health experts and veteran journalists. So after the workshop, we are going to launch that guide which will be available for free for journalists in Cameroon in English and French and online and offline as well", she said.

She disclosed that SisterSpeak237 is going to engage with younger reporters because they want to mentor them more and in November they will have an exchange with the Society of Gynaecologists, other doctors, and other reporters because reproductive health is more than just the clinical aspect.

Talking about the importance of the workshop, the vice president of the Society of Gynaecologists in Cameroon (SOGOC), Prof. Fomulu Nelson painted a picture of the reproductive health situation in the country. 

"This seminar is very important because SOGOC needs journalists to communicate our very lofty professional messages to the needy population because they don't know their rights. Most of you do not even know what you are supposed to do every year for your prevention check".

Vice President SOGOC, Prof Fomulu Nelson

"It is a very sad situation because Cameroon has one of the highest maternal death rates on Earth. The government has done a few things to reduce but it's still 460 per 100,000 lives births. 406 Cameroonian women are dying out of 100,000 live births in the course of delivery and one of the major contributions to this high maternal death rate is abortion, the complications of unsafe abortions. it contributes to 30% of our maternal death rates. so if we can reduce this abortion rate, we can give the Cameroonian woman that reproductive right to carry out therapeutic abortion when necessary if she's eligible", he added.

The protocol councilor for the Canadian Fund for Local Initiatives, Marcus Davies made mentioned why the Canadian Fund supports the initiative of SisterSpeak237. 

"The find is designed to work with local organizations and one of the priorities for this is women empowerment and media freedom and to this project coming together to work with journalists to report on Reproductive health is an important project to raise awareness about sexual and reproductive health within Cameroonian media and it's an opportunity for education but also to work with a journalist in an under-reported area. And so we are happy to work with SisterSpeak and we think that this will be an excellent project".

Marcus Davies

At the end of the two-day workshop, the journalists are expected to raise awareness about sexual and reproductive health so that journalists are more empowered to report on this within the Cameroonian media.

By Tantan Patience

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