Mentoring programme set to change face of journalism

A US programme, to mentor female journalists, may change the face of journalism in Zimbabwe where women fail to rise up the ladder because of a hostile working environment.

The programme is a one year project by the US Embassy Public Affairs Section in collaboration with the Humanitarian Information and Facility Centre (HIFC) and the Zimbabwe Women Journalists Mentoring (WJM) Programme.

The Director of HIFC and Chairperson of the Women Coalition of Zimbabwe, Virginia Muwanigwa, said last week, the programme was a platform for older journalists to share their experiences with the younger journalists.

Community Affairs Editor for The Daily News, Thelma Chikwanha, who is one of the mentors, described it as a “wonderful learning curve such that I have personally realised that we should not wait for anyone to do it for us but only ourselves”.

“The environment in the media has always been hostile to women and whatever we do or say we are always viewed through a feminine lens making it difficult for us to rise and occupy the most powerful positions in our circle,” said Lucy Yasini, a freelance journalist.

A veteran broadcaster, Yasini started her career at the Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation (ZBC) in 1991, at National FM, which back then was known as Radio 4 before she rose to become the executive producer at the radio station.

Yasini said it had not been an easy road.

According to a study by Gender Links, an organisation focusing on gender and the media, female media students constituted 61% but the majority did not work for the mainstream media after completion of their studies.

Only 12 percent of female journalists occupied decision making posts.

Some of the veteran female journalists who have made it include Edna Machirori, Sandra Nyaira, Victoria Ruzvidzo, Nqobile Nyathi and Ropafadzo Mapimhidze.

Herald Features Editor, Isdore Guvamombe, said women’s roles in the homes stifled them at work.

Ruzvidzo said the long working hours and negative perceptions towards women in the media were major stumbling blocks. She said assumptions that female journalists were not marriage material, for example, was as a result of ignorance on the operations of the media.

The director for Christian College of Southern Africa (CCOSA,Tawanda Mukurunge, described the media business as “cut throat”, saying only the diligent survived.

He said male journalism students started contributing articles to the mainstream media while still on training but this was not the same with the aspiring female journalists.

Recently the Zimpapers, the largest print media company in the country, with several newspapers under its stable, announced the introduction of a gender policy to address gender disparities both in terms of content and staffing.

On the other hand, the Zimbabwe Union of Journalist (ZUJ) has been working on a sexual harassment project.

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