Harnessing the power of the media

What if we could eliminate the need for ourselves and the work we do? This may sound counterintuitive, but that is exactly what Journalists for Human Rights (JHR), a Toronto-based NGO, is striving for.

JHR was founded in 2002 by Ben Peterson. Since then it has spread across Canada with the founding of university campus chapters like the one here at Laurier Brantford. JHR recognizes the power of the media in today’s society and tries to harness it. Mainstream and new media sources are the most efficient channels to create awareness across international borders on the human rights issues that are affecting societies across the world.

JHR always chooses a specific human rights issue on which to focus their efforts each year. This year it is women’s rights in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Statistics show that four women are raped in the DRC every 5 minutes. Although cases of sexual violence have always been a factor in the DRC, experts and volunteers alike agree that rape is becoming more violent and more common.

Gang rapes, sex slaves, female genital mutilation and murder are among the most prevalent crimes in Eastern Congo. Not only are these violent attacks on women a major violation of their human rights, but they have consequences on the population’s health as well. HIV transmission, unwanted and unplanned pregnancy as well as STI transmission are becoming even more of a concern for the DRC. It doesn’t stop with disease either; the damage to women’s reproductive systems, broken bones, severed limbs and burns all over their bodies are taxing their already maxed-out health care.

This is what JHR Laurier Brantford is trying to eliminate. The hope is that through campus events, local media, and fundraising, the public will take notice. When the public takes hold of an issue, it can break down barriers of distance and culture to be able to fight for the rights that every human being deserves.

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