World Association of News Publishers

Women in News Continues

Women in News Continues

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Since 2010, WAN-IFRA’s Women in News leadership development program has worked to empower women in the media to expect more professionally, to strive for executive positions and receive the training and support networks to do so.

By Colette Davidson

So when the nine members of WAN-IFRA’s Women in News Steering Committee met in Paris from December 14 to 15 to put together the new framework for the advocacy arm of its Gender and Media Freedom Strategy, it signaled an exciting new chapter in the program.

The Women in News initiative has already had great success in its five years of capacity building activities, which include mentoring, career coaching and networking along with traditional training techniques.

The extension of the program to include advocacy activities was a natural evolution -- it recognizes that to make real gains in gender equality within the media industry, change needs to be made at the organizational level by educating and sensitizing top management in order to build momentum for industry-led change.

To give focus to advocacy efforts, the Steering Committee will push for the creation of national gender policies for newsrooms within their respective markets in the Middle East and Africa. Over the next twelve months, each will host roundtable discussions with their peers for discussion and debate on gender strategies, while working toward achieving consensus in the development and content of the policies.

It’s essential for change to come from within, says Steering Committee Member Fatemah Farag, and for the industry to be responsible for creating policies that work for them. For this reason, an essential component of the gender strategy will include providing practical resources for media organizations so that they can take the lead on implementing the changes they commit to on paper.

Reference materials will include guidelines for managers on how to start the conversation around gender equality within their teams, a step-by-step process to creating mentoring programs, and a reference guide for journalists on how to reduce gender bias in the news.

“I know from experience that high level, industry-led programs tend to make the most impact on professionals such as myself,” says Farag, “as well as on work processes, overall internal media company thinking and policy development.”

Farag, who is the Founder and Director of Welad Elbalad Media Services LTD in Cairo, Egypt, says she wasn’t necessarily focused on gender issues before becoming part of the WAN-IFRA program, but slowly realized its significance.

“For the first time within my company – while we inadvertently have a very engaged and representative female professional cadre – we are consciously thinking and brainstorming around gender politics within our newsrooms and the results are astounding to us all,” says Farag.

Sa’eda Al-Kilani, Director of Advocacy for the Women in News program, says gender imbalance in the media is not just a problem in the target regions but a global issue.

“Women often outnumber men in the newsroom but not when it comes to executive posts or senior positions,” she says. “It’s about making long-term changes for women’s careers, perspectives and progress in society.”

Policies, of course, need concrete action, which is why the capacity building aspect of Women in News has been so vital to correcting gender bias in newsrooms in the target regions.

Emelda Libanga, editor of the Zambian newspaper Sunday Mail and a Steering Committee Member, saw this firsthand when she joined the Women in News program in 2010 as a participant and two years later moved to become a peer mentor. As a sub editor at the time, Libanga says she never envisioned herself in a leadership role before participating in WAN-IFRA’s capacity building activities.

“Through the vigorous and well thought out implementation of the program, I was exposed to various media trainings, coaching and mentorship,” she says. “This exposure not only equipped me with media skills but also boosted my confidence levels such that now I can challenge myself to farfetched opportunities – something I could hardly do before the program.”

Libanga says that mindsets in Africa are such that most African women believe that their role is to support men but never to lead. These barriers, felt by female journalists in not only Africa and the Middle East but globally as well, are the reason why WAN-IFRA decided upon a two-pronged approach for its intervention activities.

First, it works to bring about real change by giving individuals the tools to contribute to the media in a positive way, and then works to address structural imbalances in the industry.

“This program is so great,” says Al-Kilani, “but it needs training and advocacy to make it complete.”

Women in News is already active in Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon and Palestine (WIN MENA), as well as Botswana, Rwanda, Zambia and Zimbabwe (WIN Southern Africa) and Kenya, Malawi and Tanzania (WIN Central/East Africa).


Hedvig Lundstrom's picture

Hedvig Lundstrom


2016-03-09 18:33

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In its media development work, the WAN-IFRA strategy focuses on bringing a new way of thinking to the sector. WAN-IFRA has become a key player in the field of financial independence and management capacity building, conducting groundbreaking research and developing subsequent media development policies. Read more ...

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