Interview with Fiona Lloyd

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Fiona Lloyd is a South African journalist who has co-founded the organization "Reporting for Peace", which engages in teaching journalists how to effectively report on conflicts. She is also the co-author of Gender, Conflict & Journalism, a handbook for journalists published by UNESCO, which can be downloaded at

Can you introduce yourself?

I am Fiona, and I am from Zimbabwe originally but I live in South Africa mostly these days. I work as a journalism trainer especially in areas of conflict around the world, in Africa and also in Southeast Asia quite a bit. So, one part of my job is working with journalists and how to report on conflicts more sensitively. Another part of my work is working with organizations very much like yours around the world: organizations not only in situations of conflict but often people whose organization might be marginalized or not heard very much nor mentioned by the media. So I do a lot of training with them on how to use media more effectively.

What kind of role should journalists play in situations of conflict?

Journalists have an enormously important role to play when it comes to reporting conflict. I don't believe that it's the journalist's job to promote peace, but I do think that by responsible, really balanced reliable and creative reporting journalist can raise the volume on voices that are not usually heard and tell stories that are not usually told by many media. Most importantly, I think that as journalists we need to rethink how we frame conflict stories. In other words: who do we include in our frame, and who do we exclude? Who should be bigger, who do we give more prominence to, and who do we put in the background of this context? And I think that this is where a gender sensitive perspective is very very important, because women's voices and women's stories are totally underrepresented when it comes to conflict reporting. Generally, when I move around conflict situations, women are stereotyped, women are put in boxes as victims only. In a sense media re-victimises them by only showing the women with their tears pouring down their faces? which is part of the truth because women have terrible suffering to bear. But media very seldom shows these women's bravery or courage. But they should show how women pull their life together and are very active in order to keep families and communities together.

And secondly I would think that the language and labeling is something that journalists need to be very aware of. And I know from some time Thai journalists that there's a lot of that when it comes to reporting on the south? from the terminology of this group or that group.

And then finally, and I said earlier that I don't believe journalists should set out to promote peace, but I do think that by reporting in a very creative way, in an open-minded way on the conflict? instead of just side A versus side B ? which can also open up options for change and possibilities for change, that would be very very important. So for example looking at: are there any similar conflicts as well in the world or in the region? Where there any solutions in those conflicts? What happened to bring people together, and why isn't that happening in their own conflict?

Specifically with regards to our own program, we would be interested in your ideas and experiences on how to make the program more powerful?

I think there are a number of ways. The first way is to think very creatively. Sometimes to tell a story instead of just having a straight set of interviews, especially when women do not want their names to be mentioned. But you could go and collect a range of stories and experiences and create a drama, a simple radio drama that can really open up all kinds of different situations and perspectives and stories. Because I think quite often what happens on the radio is that the issues are very important and very good, but they can be quite boring. So I think we have to entertain, even when we talk about some serious issues, or as we call it: "edutainment". Something that includes story-telling or some of the culture of the women that you are trying to reach ? to tell the story in a more vivid and entertaining way; and I mean entertaining without disrespecting women at all. But finding a human face to the story

You were saying that in order to report creatively, we should compare the conflict we are in with other conflicts. If we compare the conflict here in the south with other conflicts, from your experience, are there any similar conflicts?

I would say that every conflict is unique and very complex. But at the same time there are certain connections that we can make. And I feel it's really important, because when you are living in a conflict situation, very often you feel that you are so lonely and so unique that nobody else can possibly understand what you are going through, especially for women, they bear the brunt of it and I am very sure that here in southern Thailand that's like in other places. So I think you can inspire by telling stories of other women in other conflict situations, what their survival tactics are. So take women from the conflict in Congo in Africa, a terrible conflict: What keeps them strong? What are their strategies for survival? And equally, how in other countries have women gotten themselves a seat at the negotiating table, or how have they gotten themselves into more powerful positions from where their voices are really being heard. So to learn something of those strategies as well could be quite empowering.

How can we raise women?s voices and also reach out to men so that we can increase their acceptance of the new important role that women play?

I always talk about raising the volume on voices because I think it's a mistake for people to talk about the voice of the voiceless. I mean women have voices, it's just that other people maybe are not hearing their voices. So maybe the media can be a very big tool in this. I think it's good to make some key allies with key journalists, not even the organization, but if you know a really good journalist (not necessarily a women journalist) who you trust , whose reporting you think is good, make them your allies. And think about a news event that can bring journalists to you, realizing that as journalists we always need news and the release of a document is not necessary new. But especially TV, they need visuals, so think like a journalist in terms of what are the pictures, what are the visuals that we offer? If you work strategically with media like that I think it's much better than trying to get all media cover every workshohp you do.

The other point I want to make relates to something I said earlier. I think sometimes there is a danger, that the idea of peace is a much misused word. When I am training journalists I never talk about we are reporting for peace, because I think peace means different things to different people, and I think sometimes women's peace movements can be actually used by the powerful to try and dam down human rights issues.

We are now using the term "human security" to talk about women's issues in the south?

I think it is great, that could be something that when you are teaching other people in your organization on media strategy, and if the word  "peace" comes up, you could challenge them and talk about human security. So you can also change the language that media uses, or at least help journalists to be a little bit more critical of just using terms like peace not in a blind way.

Where do you think that women can participate in such situations of conflict except for the area of media?

I don't know the situation here, I mean in other countries where I've worked there has been a strategy to really get a foot in the door of all powerful decision-making bodies, or influential bodies. Like in south Africa women in the churches were very strong during the apartheid, and they used those church structures. But you can try just getting whatever you can but be strategic with each case, and not try to do too much, I think the media is crucial to all of this, it?s not a separate thing, but something to integrate into any kind of advocacy.

Can you explain a bit more about this example of southern Africa, where women got organized in churches?

The churches have always been a very big or important power in South Africa, and especially during the apartheid time, Some churches always tried to fight against apartheid. So church became for people not only a religious space, but it became a space of comfort and a space of protest and a space of solidarity during the struggle for freedom in South Africa. For instance, the church would look after the families of political detainees, and women were always very strong in that. Women would get organized in mother committees, church women's groups, based trough the church and around the church, not to challenge male spaces but to create parallel spaces within that structure.

In Liberia, in West Africa, women from Muslim and Christian communities got together as one solidarity group, to demand a place at the peace talks when that transformation to democracy was happening, and they even barricaded the peace talk until they were allowed to have some form of better representation at that table. So I think that's part of an ongoing campaign, where women from all sides of the conflict can say: ?Ok! We do have differences, but we need as women to be represented better in any negotiating space, and for that moment we put those differences there and move together as women to demand a place at the negotiating table.

Why do you think it is important to make women's voices heard in a conflict situation?

Because they are half of the population, they are the ones who are suffering, if we don't honor those voices as journalists, we are only telling half of the story. And we are not a good journalist, journalists are supposed to be balanced, journalists are supposed to give a picture as full as possible, so if journalists are only going to choose to report on certain kinds of experiences, they are not doing their job, it?s as simple as that.

You wrote a lot about a gender perspective in journalism and that it does not only mean talking about women?

It means that we don't stereotype, and say that men feel this and do this and women feel this and that, but that we look at the social dynamic, and the socialization issues that go on and around power relationships between women and men. So we look for example at what it might mean to be a man and to also have experienced sexual violence, because I think that's very seldom talked about and sure is going on. And what does it mean in a community where rape might be used as a political weapon, how does that affect the fabric of that whole community. Not only the women who of course are the primary targets of this and the people who directly suffer the violence but how does that translate into violence against the whole community, and what does it do to men in a situation like that?

I was working with some people in Indonesia after the Tsunami in Aceh, and some of the women's groups told me that post the Tsunami the domestic violence rose enormously. And it was obviously a sign of stress within the community as a whole, so? if the media had reported on it they would have said that it's a women's problem instead of seeing it as part of the stress experienced by the whole community that made the women into the targets of the pain, the frustration, the trauma. Also when you are looking at war and conflict and armed groups from a gender perspective, also remember that women are part of armed groups, that might be very interesting to look at as well: what is women's experience when they are in armed groups, so it's not only men who are solders in a conflict and I think female combatants are often not looked at by media at all.

Do you have any ideas about simple projects that would not need a big budget but could be realized in a Muslim context?

You are the experts here! You should think about where do those women meet, where do they come to talk together, where are women?s spaces. They can meet on your radio program for a start? In Indonesia, for instance, women always talk about "Tempat Suarat", like a place for meeting or sharing, a place where you can share secrets almost. Sometimes you can also just bring together simple women on your radio program, it doesn't need to be experts, and you have tea and then you record and you just have like free conversation. As a listener, I feel like I'm eavesdropping onto a chat with women. And you just have a topic but it is like hanging out with your friends, and you are not only talking about the conflict maybe about other things as well. Because that's also something to challenge, I think people outside the south seem to think that when you are living in the south the only thing you talk about is the conflict. And I am sure you as women are not going to let yourself to be confined to that, other rich things happen in your life. Like put a human face to things. That could be really powerful, anything that can make even people from outside your community stop putting women in the south in a box would be really good.


The interview was lead December 18, 2010, by Rohanee Juenera, Soraya Jamjuree and Ruth Streicher. Available on our website:-