Sexual harassment rife in media

Ruvimbo Makombe (23) is a graduate of a Diploma in Mass Communication from the Harare Polytechnic. It is now three years since she left college but efforts to get a job have proved to be an uphill task in an industry where editors and senior journalists demand sex in exchange for a job.

This is a story rarely published in the media, but one-on-one conversation with both male and female journalists reveals that sexual harassment is one of the explanations why there are so few women in the newsrooms.

The Secretary General of the Zimbabwe Union of Journalists, Foster Dongozi, is reported to have threatened to name and shames those who are behind the rampant harassment of women in the media.

The most commonly reported forms of sexual harassment in the newsrooms include unsolicited sexual advances, verbal abuse and or demands for sex in exchange for favours.

Speaking at a recent training workshops for journalists hosted by the ZWRCN, the Director of the Humanitarian Information Facilitation Centre, Virginia Muwanigwa, said “we are waiting for a time when senior media practitioners would stop seeing every young female journalist as easy targets to quench their sexual appetites.”

Reports indicate that a good number of female journalists now prefer to work from the Media Center, which provides facilities for journalists to write and send their articles without the hassles that ladies in the newsrooms face.

“I have been working from here since last year and do not wish to return to the newsroom again,” said a 26-year-old freelance journalist.

One female journalist says she now works as a bank teller because of a traumatic experience she has had of sexual advances that stressed her life.

She said: “I will never go back to the newspapers begging for a job. I once worked at one local publication and there were many incidents when my seniors asked me for sex in exchange for either a promotion or to get my stories published’.

ZUJ has announced plans for nationwide campaign to discuss strategies for addressing sexual abuse as well as ways of empowering female journalists.

However, Sally Dura, a local gender activist, says the challenge should be addressed at the level of decision-making, as most of the violation of female journalists’ rights are violated at the level of recruitment.

Dura said the problem was compounded by the fact that ZUJ itself is ‘not gendered’. She said, “ZUJ is lacking in its representation of female journalist issues. Most of the times they complain about the persecution of their journalists by politicians, but they hardly complain about sexual harassment in the media.”

The equal participation of women as workers and decision makers in the media is critical if women’s voices are to be heard. A recent study by the Media Monitoring Project on Gender and the Media, revealed that women do not make headlines except in the H-Metro when they are involved in sex scandals and other bizarre incidents. For example, the most recently publicized story about women was about suspected women rapists.

The workshop agreed that women are their own liberators, and more women should be allowed to work in an environment free of sexual harassment and abuse so that they can liberate others through the pen.

Post published in: Politics

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