US supports media gender parity

HARARE - The United States will continue to support efforts to ensure gender parity in the media, a senior US Embassy official said on Friday during a graduation ceremony that witnessed 14 young and promising women journalists qualify to tackle the media world.
“For the US and its partners in Zimbabwe, we are here to witness an example of the participation age…we must all be reminded these occasions are an opportunity to renew the call for action, investment, and commitment to women’s equality,” said David Abell, Charge d’Affaires at the US Embassy in Harare.

Abell was congratulating 14 women journalists who underwent a yearlong experiential programme supported by the US Embassy and implemented jointly by the Embassy Public Affairs Section and the Humanitarian Information Facilitation Centre (HIFC).

Abell said their achievements represent an expression of the US and its partners’ commitments to gender equality in the workplace.

Daily News Entertainment journalist, Sharon Muguwu was among female journalists who qualified. Muguwu said, “The programme was insightful, educative and it has equipped me to take on the world.

Being the first of its kind, the embassy’s initiative is equipping women in the media with the necessary tools needed to take on the world. I feel empowered to carry on with my duties and inspire other female journalists. ”

Other female journalists are Onai Abote, Gracey Chirumanzu, Tafadzwa Chiutsi, Lulu Brenda Harris, Angela Jimu, Tarisai Treasure Jangara, Cecilia Kamuputa, Tendai Manhundu, Amanda Mardon, Sthandwa Ncube, Nobukhosi Ndlovu, Roselyne Sachiti, and Tracey Sibanda.

They represent online and mainstream media organisations based in Harare, Bulawayo, Gweru and Mutare.

Giving the keynote address at the event, veteran journalist Shenhilla Mohamed said women should emphasise professionalism and depth in their reporting if the number of women in positions of authority in the media is to increase.

“With the advancements of the 21st century, journalism is undergoing a radical transformation, searching desperately for its future, and begins to discover once again the profound value of expertise, exclusivity and depth,” Mohamed told the graduates and their guests.

Mohamed, whose journalism career spans over 25 years with local and international media houses, expressed optimism about prospects for change in the status quo despite patriarchal values continuing to dominate the media sector in Zimbabwe and abroad.

“The first thing we can do is to ensure we are highly skilled and knowledgeable in our fields.

‘‘This will give us the confidence we need to establish ourselves professionally and not to be intimidated by patriarchal newsrooms or patriarchal societies,” said Mohamed citing recent studies in the US and southern Africa showing that women constitute a significant percentage of personnel in the media.

“There is nothing wrong with reporting on women’s affairs. This attitude is influenced by the attitude of most of the male counterparts who perceive women’s issues as unimportant,” said Mohamed.

The event was attended by representatives of media organisations and civil society as well as US Embassy officials.

During the programme, WJMP participants attended discussions and courses designed to enhance professional writing and leadership skills, as well as sessions on personal and professional growth for both mentors and mentees.

“In addition to online research skills and other digital media concepts, we also received an appreciation of how media works and is reforming in other countries,” said Obote, giving a vote of thanks.

“Because of the programme we are bolder, courageous, hopeful, thorough and a tougher breed of journalists.”

Obote and her colleagues were paired with experienced mentors and attended group meetings, discussions and trainings, including an academic short course, writing evaluations, a media tour of Johannesburg newsrooms; and finally, the September 2012 Highway Africa Conference at Rhodes University in Grahamstown, South Africa.

Sharon Hudson-Dean, counsellor for Public Affairs at the US Embassy, said the initiative was designed to address gender gaps in leadership positions in the media sector.

A 2010 Gender and Media Progress Study conducted by Gender Links showed that women constitute 29 percent of journalists in the 14 Sadc countries studied.

Hudson-Dean said the second phase of the programme will begin in October 2012 and will recruit primarily from final year students at various training colleges and universities in Zimbabwe. — ZimPAS

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