Three Women’s Edition journalists accompanied Jean-Pierre Kalala of Sonke Gender Justice in a Johannesburg marketplace that caters to refugees, where he distributes HIV information and condoms. (Women’s Edition members from left: Florence Machio, Nairobi-based freelance writer; Rosemary Ardayfio, deputy news editor of the Daily Graphic in Ghana; and Pamela Asigi, senior health reporter for Nation TV in Kenya.)

(May 2008) In early April, the Population Reference Bureau assembled a group of women journalists from seven developing countries in South Africa to participate in a weeklong seminar on the causes and consequences of rape and other violence against women.

The eight journalists are members of PRB’s global network called Women’s Edition, which is funded by USAID. They represent newspapers and TV stations in Ghana, Guatemala, India, Kenya, Malawi, Peru, and Uganda.

Johannesburg was chosen as the venue for a seminar on gender-based violence because it has one of the world’s highest rates of rape. The city and nearby Pretoria also have many researchers studying gender-based violence and provide examples of effective programs for violence survivors.

About half of the seminar was spent visiting various sites, including an innovative “one stop” rape care management center in Soweto that provides health care, counseling and legal services, and a government-run residential shelter in Johannesburg that houses women and children who are violence survivors. The journalists also visited the Medical Research Council in Pretoria, where the director of the Gender and Health Research Unit, Rachel Jewkes, presented an overview of the dimensions of gender-based violence and its consequences.

The co-director of Sonke Gender Justice, Dean Peacock, spoke to the journalists about his group’s work with men to help stop gender-based violence. The women later accompanied Sonke workers to a marketplace catering to refugees where they participated in a peer education exercise, handing out materials on various reproductive health and HIV/AIDS issues.

The journalists also spent a morning with Charlene Smith, an award-winning South African journalist who wrote about her own rape in 1999 and is credited with raising awareness globally around rape issues, especially about post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP) to prevent HIV infection and emergency contraception. In addition, they visited the multimedia health promotion and social change project Soul City.

When not visiting these sites, the women reviewed the nearly 100 stories and broadcast programs they and two other Women’s Edition members (who were unable to attend the Johannesburg meeting) had produced since their first seminar in January 2007. They also discussed ideas for stories they would write about violence against women when they returned to their newsrooms.

This was the last of four weeklong seminars PRB has organized for this group of Women’s Edition journalists. Earlier seminars for them were held in Washington, D.C.; Mumbai and Jamkhed, India; and London.

Every two years, PRB selects up to 12 senior-level women journalists from developing countries to participate in the program that is designed to increase news coverage of reproductive health issues. PRB will soon invite applications for 2008-09 Women’s Edition.

Deborah Mesce is program director, international media training, at the Population Reference Bureau. Charlotte Feldman-Jacobs is program director, gender, at PRB.