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Exploring Gender Based Violence Data with the Association of Freelance Journalists in Sierra Leone

Participants in a meeting.
Written by
Published on
September 29, 2020

This post is part of our series on the Open Heroines Community Events Fund, to support local or international OH meet ups on gender and the intersection of data/open government/civic tech.

This is an excerpt of a blog written by Winnie Kamau, and originally published on Talk Africa. Winnie is a data Journalist based in Kenya. She is the Founding member of Association of Freelance Journalists, a network of freelancers based in Kenya and Africa. She is an Editor at African Voices, based in Italy, and Talk Africa, based in Kenya.

We weaved our way through the streets of the mystical Freetown with no traffic as we head to the Sierra Leone News Agency (SLENA) national office. I am fascinated to see the beautiful capital of Sierra Leone donned upon the many hills as the exquisite view of the ocean beckons.

Today, the holiday of the International women’s day has spilled over from Sunday.

At SLENA offices we are met by the many eager Journalists who are willing to learn some Data Journalism skills. Armed with pen and paper the Journalists extend their warm greetings.

We held this session to celebrate the International Open Data Day #0DD2020 which was held on 7th March. The Association of Freelance Journalists (AFJ) and SLENA approached Open Heroines and through Development Gateway they were able to give us a grant of 500 dollars to support the event.

On the first day of the event, we heard from Yeama Thompson, the Acting Managing Director of SLENA. Her laughter and energy and passion for Open Data and Data Journalism fills the room.

A woman presenting.

Our first Speaker spoke on Ethics and Law was a renowned Lawyer and Human Rights, Activist, Abdul Fartoma. He was candid on how the law works and how the journalists need to safeguard themselves from libel and defamation law, and practice ethical reporting. He also quipped on the need for Journalists to have a specialize in their careers.

A man presenting.

Our second Speaker was Clementina Akran a senior Data Scientist and Head of the Open Data Division at Statistics of Sierra Leone. She took us through the basics of statistics and interpreting the Consumer Price Index, the Producer Price Index and how the GDP works.

A woman presenting.

I had the chance to teach on the Basic Principles of Open Data and explain what Open Data was. I also had a chance to explain what Data Journalism is all about. We looked at some of the Open Data portals that Journalists can use to find factual information and how to use numbers to tell stories.

We also had an opportunity to speak to the Web Manager of the Sierra Leone Police Website, Inspector Brima Kamara. He gave us tips on whom to talk to in the police. We also learned on the number of police stations that are there in Sierra Leone and they have been geocoded on the Open Data portal of Stats SL.

Woman holding a speech at an office.

On the second day, AFJ partnered with the Sierra Leone Association of Women in Journalism (SLAWIJ). This was a very in-depth exploration of Gender-Based Violence Data.

In 2018 the President of Sierra Leone H.E Maada Julius Bio gave a declaration for a state of emergency in Sierra Leone due to the rising number of rape cases. The ‘Hands off our Girls’ campaign is being spearheaded by the First Lady H.E. Fatima Maada Bio which is targeted to raise awareness against the rising number of violence against Women and Girls.

We had a chance to look at the basic FAIR principles of Open Data – that it should be Findable, Accessible, Interoperable and Reusable.

One of the concerns raised by the eminent ladies in the room was the lack of harmonized Gender-Based Violence Data in the Government systems and lack of collaboration between the NGOs and Government agencies. The only data we could access on Gender-Based Violence specifically on rape cases were reported on the Rainbo Initiative. There was nothing on the Statistics Sierra Leone Open Data Portal.

This was unfortunate, as we were looking forward to learning how we can best can tell stories with GBV data. There is a need for collaboration between NGOs like Rainbo Initiative, Stats SL, Family Support Unit (FSU) and Police to harmonize on the data that is anonymized and presented to the public without fear of data breaches.

We learnt that many of the GBV cases fall between the cracks of the corridors of justice due to the prolonged hearings. GBV cases in Sierra Leone - especially in the courtrooms of Freetown - are only heard on Saturdays. This is due to the congested courtrooms during the week and it does not give the deserved privacy and protection that is required. This translates to hearings once a week.

For many, this path to justice seems slow and they feel stigmatized for being seen going to court on Saturdays. Those whose religion is observed on Saturdays have no option but to drop their cases.

People smiling.

As we shared this we realized there’s urgent need to collect data on GBV and harmonize the data among the institutions. We also need to look at ways that we can help reduce the stigma attached to hearing Court cases on Saturdays by holding hearings of the GBV cases more frequently.

Read the full report of the two day event on Talk Africa.

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