Every year, the School of Journalism at the University of Nairobi churns out almost an equal number of women and men, and so do other universities and Journalism institutions in the country.
However, research has shown that it is only about an eighth of these graduate women journalists end up in the Newsroom in Kenya’s media. The situation is not any different in most African countries. Given that ours is basically a patriarchal society where the demands of Journalism are generally seen as a male preserve –confirmed by the fact that the media scene is male dominated-most women trained in Mass Communication and Journalism opt for a more “comfortable’’ but related job such as Public Relations.
And even as the handful opt for the Newsroom, hardly do they find themselves at the table where decisions are made and they have to contend with an almost all-male Editorial leadership.
Further, anecdotal data on the state of women journalists-those employed on permanent basis and Correspondents (on contractual employment) show that unlike their male counterparts, they are generally poorly remunerated with the latter, hit hardest.
This, among other reasons, expose budding young female Journalists to further exploitation, compromising the quality of journalism, the integrity of the profession and that of the journalist.
As they strive to build a career in the Newsroom some of these women journalists, find themselves prone to abuse by senior male counterparts in form of sexual harassment, intimidation, career retardation and stagnation, among other ways as confirmed by the budding journalists who attended the joint Networking and Mentorship Retreat for Female Journalists held on November 28-29, 2019 in Nairobi. The workshop was organised by the Woman’s Newsroom Foundation (WON) in partnership with the Media Council of Kenya, the Gender Media Network and Association of Media Women in Kenya.
Known as The Woman’s Newsroom Mentorship Initiative, the program’s key aim is to address the lack of diversity, inclusion and women leadership positions in Kenyan newsrooms.
Based on this and other factors, we, as an organization that is run and led by experienced women journalists- have undertaken to support the younger crop of female Journalists and mid-level counterparts through mentorship. The mentorship program brings in-as individuals or groups- other experienced and veteran women journalists, practicing and those not in practice as part of the mentorship team.
Our aim is not only to strengthen the professional capacity through transference of knowledge and skills, but also mentorship towards profession and career growth in and out of the newsroom. In addition to offering a platform to the young journalists to identify and connect to these resourceful practitioners, we encourage networking amongst the young reporters through sisterhood groups with the aim of weaving them into keepers of one another in the newsroom and beyond. We have also identified specific like-minded male journalists as seek to make our newsrooms not only gender equal, but to also gender infuse sensitivity in reporting women and girls.
Through structured workshops, we also train them on sourcing and telling gender-balanced and objective stories with impact as well as being safe and ethical in practice. With increased skills, knowledge and professionalism, we aim to also improve telling of stories that impact on women and girls, by other women.
Our incredible role models are focused on helping lift their younger counterparts up the success ladder and at WON, we believe that this invaluable chance will lay the groundwork for the development and professional growth and leadership in the media industry, of this cadre of women journalists.