CGDS, in collaboration with Internews, conducted a series of focus group discussions in the cities of Chamchamal, Halabja, Rania, Kirkuk, and Kalar in the Kurdistan region of Iraq. The focus groups aimed to assess the community’s understanding of various issues related to sexual and gender based violence (SGBV) and to challenge perceptions or views that are detrimental to gender equality and women’s participation in the region. The discussions were led by Dr. Choman Hardi, the director of CGDS. Each group consisted of 10 participants, all of whom were influential actors in their regions, including activists, case workers, journalists, lawyers, police officers, security officials, and mullahs. The conversations centered around the participants’ understanding of ‘gender’ and SGBV, women’s representation in Kurdish media, the stigmas surrounding SGBV and the word ‘gender’, coverage of SGBV cases by the media, and suggestions to challenge some of the negative practices.
The questions asked of the participants were the following:
· What is your understanding of ‘gender’?
· What is your understanding of SGBV?
· Do you think that the media, including social media, represent women fairly?
· How does Kurdish media represent victims of SGBV?
· Why “stigma” follows the cases of SGBV?
· How media and community can contribute in reducing the stigma on the cases’ of SGBV?
· How can we utilize media to change these perceptions and represent women more fairly?
· What can we, as members of a community, do to change these practices?
· Is Kurdish language fair in terms of gender?