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Lisa Williams, Multimedia Journalist, Cook Islands

There have been a few times where personal safety has been an issue, but as a woman journalist the biggest gendered challenge has not been the harassment. It’s the insidious, powerful weight of the roles, rules and obligations which come with gender stereotypes. I’ve grown to know they are so much more crushing when they come from family members and other loved ones you would expect to know better. When you combine the weight of all that lived expectation with a workplace that cannot handle a woman who not only has something to say, but dares to say it, I can only diplomatically say it’s been a life-changing journey.
The solution has been in finding positive energy from colleagues and families to tide me through, and in the amazing sharing and solidarity of other women in media. Long before the #metoo movement, the “OMG Me too!” moments were a heartbreakingly common theme of networking and meeting up with women who are part of my Pacific and global media sisterhood. I appreciate them every waking moment, and their stories and energy are my recharge, every time we meet or share. I would wish the same solidarity for my male colleagues in the media. .
Why is GBV reporting important to me? Im that woman, like most Pacific women who have experienced its frightening abusive power. I often feel it’s made my journalism with a gender edge not only more necessary, but more insightful. As a journalist, the irony of being from the Ocean of peace, a region where rates of violence against women and girls is amongst the highest in the world, where cultures of impunity allow our men to think they can pray away the horrific and often unreported crimes against their loved ones in their own homes, I think there isn’t one global solution or fix to the epidemic of attitudes feeding a war on the bodies and psyches of women and girls. It’s a lot of small and big solutions, some needing money, most of them not, all of them requiring urgent action.
Section J of the Beijing Platform for Action sums up the raft of reasons why perspectives of women are so important in the news media. I’ve been lucky to have a personal ownership of this document. In the early 90’s, UNESCO in Apia rounded up a small group of Pacific women in media to present national chapters on what it was to be a journalist, and our ideas for making our workplaces safer. From Apia, that journey took some of us to Lisbon in Portugal, then to Toronto where the drafted text of Section J came together before heading to Beijing at the UN’s World conference on women where it was endorsed! Since then, Section J has been a solid part of my Pacific media journey- building access, voice and leadership of women not just in the media, but through it. It’s a simple and relevant piece of text which has stood the test of time, and is even more urgent in the digital world than it’s ever been. I can definitely say it’s a piece of UN text that has our Pacific lives written through it. Because we were there and part of it.
I can’t say enough how the partnership of all genders is a really big part of the lasting solutions beyond money, activism and resources. Not only are the rainbow communities are not only an untapped part of where the answers lie, but we cannot talk about bringing our men in newsrooms with us on this journey, without including all the other dimensions of gender as well.
As I write this, four memories well to the surface. In one, I am a new mother devastated as a video documentary master tape is smashed to the ground by someone who feels I should be at home with my babies and not out and about being a storyteller. In another, I am recognising in the eyes of a journalist I have only just met, that certain look of the haunting despair of a woman going through some tremendous battles on the inside. Within two years of my meeting her, she will be dead, at the hands of her husband. In yet another, I ask a well known male colleague if he has witnessed or seen his female staff being physically attacked during their work. He tells  me, head bowed, of watching a senior female journalist flung to the ground from a height by her husband, who was angry over her not being home before he got back. His voice is quiet as he admits he didn’t stop the attack and had to accept her resignation, because he just didn’t know what else he could do.
In the last memory, I fast forward to this week, my tweenagers were abuzz with questions on my last journey to yet another place they were able to travel to through my anecdotes. They grilled me like courtroom lawyers, hungry for knowledge of the meetings, the places, the people and sights and sounds and ideas I am so privileged to call a part of my everyday work.
“Mum, that’s so cool”, my 12 year old daughter says. It’s taken almost three decades, but in that memory I know. Here in the Pacific, Beijing’s daughters have arrived.