U.S. to continue support to gender parity in the media

The United States will continue to support efforts to ensure gender parity in the media, a senior U.S. Embassy official said on Friday.

David Abell with Cris Chinak - WJMP mentees benefited from the expertise of veteran journalists.
David Abell with Cris Chinak – WJMP mentees benefited from the expertise of veteran journalists.

“For the U.S. 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 U.S. Embassy in Harare. Abell was congratulating 14 women journalists who underwent a yearlong experiential program supported by the U.S. 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 U.S. and its partners’ commitments to gender equality in the workplace.

The journalists are Onai Abote; Gracey Chirumanzu; Tafadzwa Chiutsi; Lulu Brenda Harris; Angela Jimu; Tarisai Treasure Jangara; Cecilia Kamuputa; Tendai Manhundu; Amanda Mardon; Sharon Muguwu; Sthandwa Ncube; Nobukhosi Ndlovu; Roselyne Sachiti; and Tracey Sibanda. They represent online and mainstream media organizations based in Harare, Bulawayo, Gweru and Mutare.

Giving the key note address at the event, veteran journalist Shenhilla Mohamed said women should emphasize 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 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 U.S. and Southern Africa showing that women constitute a significant percent 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 organizations and civil society as well as U.S. Embassy officials.

During the program, 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 program we are bolder, courageous, hopeful, thorough and a tougher breed of journalists.”

Onai 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, Counselor for Public Affairs at the U.S. 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% of journalists in the 14 SADC countries studied.

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

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