Scientists and public health experts are increasingly aware of the connections between climate change, environmental degradation and health issues ranging from Ebola and AIDS to asthma.
Gender also enters into this equation.
A World Health Organization report — Gender, Climate Change and Health — noted that, “Women’s and men’s vulnerability to the impact of extreme climate events is determined not only by biology but also by differences in their social roles and responsibilities.” For example, in countries where women and girls are the ones responsible for fetching water, a drought might cause health issues associated with having to travel greater distances.
Reporting on these complex issues requires in-depth research and attention to detail, as well as sensitivity to the needs and issues of the local community and how best to reach them. Journalists reporting on health and the environment need to be able to evaluate information and rumors and present the information in a way that does not stigmatize an affected population.
As part of Internews’ five-year initiative, Women’s Voices, Powering Change, we are featuring seven women who report on health and environmental issues. They are each determined to communicate accurately to their communities so that both men and women get the information they need to make good decisions about their lives. In turn, their reporting influences the policies that shape global health and the environment.
Asmaou Diallo, Guinea
“We deconstructed the rumors around the [Ebola treatment] centers. Other reporters are now doing the same thing. The impact is that more people know what is happening inside, and now more people go to the centers to get treated.”
Asmaou Diallo (right) is a journalist for the radio news program Ebola Chrono, which was started by Internews to address misinformation and rumors that were rampant in Guinea as the epidemic took off. When rumors started spreading that Ebola treatment centers were being used to kill citizens and harvest their organs, Diallo was the first reporter to enter a unit and give a first-hand account of what really goes on there. (photo credit: Pierre Mignault/Internews)
Imelda Abano, Philippines
“Prior to writing about climate change issues, I wrote on women’s issues — health especially, HIV/AIDS, water and other development topics. Essentially, I realized that all these issues are intertwined in climate change. As a journalist, I wanted to do my part so people — especially the decision-makers — can make a global response.”
Imelda Abano is a freelance journalist with an extensive background in environmental, health and development issues in Asia. She currently writes for the Science and Development Network based in London, the Inter Press Service, the Women’s International Perspective News Service based in U.S., and the Business Mirror in the Philippines. Abano is the Asian winner of the Global IUCN-Reuters Environmental Reporting Award in 2002 and was a Climate Change Fellow with Internews’ Earth Journalism Network. (photo credit: Internews)
Uzomba Chinyere Joy, Nigeria
“I had to learn how to talk slower. I had to learn the skills of a good reporter. I do not really know how I got here from being a graduate of chemical engineering to a journalist whose reports are winning free trips to different parts of the world. This is just the beginning for me. I am more determined than ever before to do more.”
Uzomba Chinyere Joy, who is known to her listeners as “Princess Chi,” hosted two talk shows on HOT-FM in Abuja, one on emotional issues, Evening Showers, and a health program called Healthy Living. Chinyere, who learned to report on HIV/AIDS through Internews’ Local Voices program, devoted one program to dispelling myths about AIDS, such as the belief that women can use lime juice after sex to protect themselves from getting AIDS.
Chinyere says she gets her biggest rewards from her listeners. She was moved to tears when a listener, who had heard her story about visiting VCT (voluntary counseling and testing) centers and was moved to go get tested, called the station to thank her. (photo credit: Gboyega Sotunde/Internews)
Cui Zheng, China
“In China, there are two sides. On one side, young people have more access to knowledge than their previous generations and are beginning to know the significance of the environment. They have become much more motivated to become the solution.
On the other side, the young generation in China has more ability and opportunities to consume than any generation in the past. And young people are embracing the modern style of life by buying more cars and creating more trash; in this way they are also becoming the problem.”
Cui Zheng is a reporter with Caixin Media, arguably one of the best newsmakers in China. She covers news related to environment, technology, energy, and food safety. Prior to her position in Caixin, she worked as a news assistant with The Guardian. In 2012, Zheng participated as an Internews Earth Journalism Fellow at the 10th Annual Seafood Summit in Hong Kong. (photo credit: Internews)
Wangari Migwi, Kenya
“There is a story I did on World AIDS Day. It was about men who have sex with men. I was looking at the angle of — whatever their actions are, they have a right to medical care just like everyone else. But you see, for an African to understand that this person should be treated in the same way was very hard, even for some of my colleagues. They said, ‘How can they be treated like a human being?’
It took me some time to explain to them, but I felt I had to. I told them, ‘The person is sick — are you going to let this person die because he is a homosexual? Or are you going to take him to hospital to be treated? People understood that you could focus on the person as someone who can fall sick, who needs to eat, just like you do.’”
Wangari Migwi, a presenter and journalist at Coro FM, a local language radio station in Kenya, tackles difficult issues in her local community — women’s ownership of land, HIV and stigma, female genital mutilation, and access to medical care by people with disabilities. (photo credit: Internews)
Neha Sethi, India
“In a diverse country like India, adapting to climate change is a necessity. India as a country has a varied geographical terrain. It needs to ensure that people living in the Himalayas are safe from earthquakes, floods and landslides, and the population living near the coast needs to be protected from cyclones and tsunamis. At the same time, the country needs to ensure that the less privileged do not suffer and are provided the basic services, including electricity and water.”
Neha Sethi is a principal correspondent for ET Now, the Economic Times News Network in Noida, India. She has previously been a reporter and editor for the Hindustan Times, Voice of America and Governance Now, reporting on environmental, gender and political issues. Sethi was named Earth Journalism Scholar for 2015. (photo: Fetching water at Sundarban National Park in West Bengal, India. credit: Judith/CC)
Violet Otindo, Kenya
“Media is a major preventive tool in public health. I am going [to the AIDS 2012 conference] with an open mind, to network, to understand even better the issues related to HIV and to learn how I can report on the virus from a new and fresh perspective.”
Violet Otindo is a television producer and reporter with Citizen TV and chair of Media for Environment, Science, Health and Agriculture Association (MESHA). She is an award-winning journalist, taking home the CNN/Multichoice 2009 Environment Award, and the SJCOOP Science Reporting Fellowship for 2010–12. Otindo was trained in health journalism and sponsored by Internews to travel to Washington DC to attend and report on the AIDS 2012 conference. (Photo: Kenyan journalists conduct an interview at the 2012 AIDS conference. credit: Internews)
Since 2004, Internews’ Earth Journalism Network has trained 3,300 journalists on subjects such as climate change, forests, water, biodiversity, fisheries and oceans, agriculture, and environmental health. Since 2002, Internews has been training journalists how to cover health issues such as HIV/AIDS, malaria, avian influenza and Ebola.
(This story was originally posted on Medium.)