Through the Women Journalist Mentorship programme administered by the US embassy in Harare, the women undergo an intensive training project that seeks to redress the gender imbalances prevalent in the local media. The embassy works with the Humanitarian Information Facilitation Centre.
Started in September 2011, the programme offers the journalists a superb opportunity for both personal and professional growth, according to previous graduates who spent 12 months in the scheme.
The training exercise involves individual supervision by experienced journalists; group discussions and reviews; an academic short course; evaluation; and exposure to the profession in neighbouring Zambian and South Africa.
Soneni Gwizi, a broadcaster from Sport FM in Bulawayo, said she managed to acquire unique leadership skills and expertise in broadcasting during her stint with the programme. “It exposed me to other experienced journalists, who through their mentoring, motivated me to aim higher and strive to deliver to the best of my ability,” she said.
Gwizi told The Zimbabwean that the program motivated her to follow the footsteps of the men and women who have made it in the industry.
“It widened my professional network and I am now confident in how I execute my duties besides becoming an eloquent speaker who is able to articulate issues on public forums,” she said.
Gwizi said she was no longer afraid or intimidated to speak on public platforms because of the experience that she got through the mentorship programme.
A former reporter with this newspaper, Tarisai Jangara, now the deputy news editor of The Business Times, attributed her rise to the WJM programme. She said the training signalled a turning point in her career, previously constrained by the male dominance within the Zimbabwean media.
“When a female journalist, especially a young one, makes it in the media industry, the assumption is that they did not gain that position on merit,” she said. “Speculation is rife that they are trading sexual favours for positions in the media. The programme motivated me to prove myself and show that women can (succeed).”
She said she was better positioned to make informed decisions professionally after the training. “The programme elevated me to higher levels of my career,” she said, noting the exposure she received from colleagues in the region at the time.
Regina Pasipanodya, a freelance journalist, said further training had “revitalised her dying career. The opportunities for female journalists in Zimbabwe are limited because there are a few media houses against the thousands of students graduating with media related qualifications,” she said.
“I did not know or understand the purpose of my career any more because of the myriad of challenges that we face as young freelance journalists. My passion for writing business stories had vanished but thanks to the programme, I am now able to create my own job opportunities.”
During the course, the journalists interacted with their peers in southern Africa at conferences and workshops, a move that helped them to network and share professional ideas.
Daily News reporter Wendy Muperi said on completing the training programme, she felt that she had re-branded herself immensely. “Being paired with senior media women sharpened my writing skills. The organised breakfast meetings with ‘tested’ women from various fields boosted my confidence,” she said, a view shared by Sheryleen Masuku, from Bulawayo.
“It is not easy penetrating the media environment as a young woman,” said Masuku. “This was a platform for young female journalists to exhibit our talent while at the same time utilising existing expertise and sharing information with mentors for our personal and professional growth.”Post published in: News