Journalism contest winners convey the harm of Nicaragua's total abortion ban

Friday, June 15, 2012

journalism contest winnersOrganizers and judges of the Conchita Palacios National Journalism Contest pose with award winners. From left to right: Marta María Blandón (Ipas Central America director), Osiris Canales (professional journalist category winner), Guillermo Rothschuh Villanueva (judge, dean of the School of Communications of the Universidad Centroamericana), Waldir Ruiz (communications student category winner), María Lopez Vigil (judge, director of the journal ENVIO of the Universidad Centroamericana, writer and feminist theologian), and Vilma Núñez de Escorcia (judge, president of the Nicaraguan Center for Human Rights).©Ipas

Journalists play a crucial role shaping public discourse on many issues—including abortion. That’s why Ipas Central America is working to educate Nicaragua’s communications professionals on the harmful effects of sexual violence and the law banning abortion under all circumstances, even to save a woman’s life.

In an award ceremony on May 24, winners of the second edition of the Conchita Palacios National Journalism Contest were honored for their stand-out writing on the topic of unwanted pregnancy resulting from rape and the need to decriminalize therapeutic abortion. Organized by Ipas Central America and the Strategic Group for the Decriminalization of Therapeutic Abortion (Grupo Estratégico por la Despenalización del Aborto Terapéutico), the contest awarded prizes for two categories: professional journalists and social communications students.

“We decided to launch this contest in 2009 to motivate communications professionals and students to deepen their interest in addressing the abortion issue and its impact on women’s lives and their families,” explained Ipas Central America director Marta María Blandón.

Osiris Canales won in the professional journalist category for her article titled “In Jalima’s Shoes,” which detailed the story of a 17-year-old who is now six months pregnant after enduring eight years of sexual abuse.

“Therapeutic abortion will continue being a controversial, poignant topic; however, we cannot impose our ideas and beliefs with respect to women’s lives as if they were simple pieces in a game where their existence does not matter,” Canales argued in her article.

Waldir Ruiz won in the communications student category for his opinion article titled “About the ‘contract to have children,’” in which he questions the roles of men, legislators and other social actors in their commitment to respect the right to life while also excluding half the population of the country from this right by criminalizing abortion without exceptions.

“My essay has two readings: One is about men’s involvement in this issue, and the other is how society has made us believe or education has made us see that it is a woman’s issue, when in reality it should be an issue that pertains to everyone,” Ruiz said during his award acceptance speech.

The contest has had a positive impact. “It has allowed participating organizations the opportunity to maintain the issue of criminalization and its consequences in the political agenda, in the media and in the schools that train the country’s future journalists,” said Blandón.

“In both editions of the contest so far, we have seen very interesting articles which have received attention and good coverage by local media and social networks,” she added.

Extensive ‘mini library’ helps journalists find the facts

Ipas Central America has also partnered with the Strategic Group for the Decriminalization of Therapeutic Abortion to create a “virtual mini library” on USB drives which they distribute to attendees of all journalism contest promotion events.

“We selected the documents in the mini library with the journalist community in mind, thinking about the information that would be of interest to them,” explained Mayte Ochoa, Ipas Central America’s policy coordinator. The mini library includes print documents and videos that provide detailed information on sexual violence and unsafe abortion in Nicaragua, the consequences of the total abortion ban, and recommendations by various committees on women’s rights and the need to decriminalize abortion.

Blandón stressed that the mini library reaches beyond the journalism contest: “Even for writers who receive a USB drive but don’t participate in the contest, these resources will help them address the issue of abortion from new points of view and with a complete understanding of the facts.”