Analysis: EMELDA MUSONDA
AS WE celebrate International Women’s Day today, under the theme ‘Better the balance, better the world’, it is time to reflect on the milestones achieved in the journey towards gender equality.
It is also an opportune time to acknowledge those who have made tremendous contribution to the noble cause.
It is worth noting that there are so many individuals and organisations that have devoted their efforts to ensuring gender balance in various spheres of life.
In the media industry, one such organisation is the World Association of Newspapers and Publishers under its Women in News (WIN) programme.
Established in 2010 as a wing of WAN-IFRA, WIN has been working to bridge the gender gap in the media structures as well as increase the voices of women in the news.
In working towards bridging the gender gap in the media, WIN focuses on a two-pronged approach – capacity building and advocacy.
Acknowledging that lack of skills and assertiveness has been one of the major hurdles to women taking up leadership opportunities, the WIN programme focusses on equipping women journalists and editors with skills, strategies, and support networks. This is to help position them for greater leadership positions within their media organisations.
Participants enrolled on the programme have an opportunity to go through a Wits certified media management training.
Through national gatherings, participants are also exposed to one-on-one coaching to create the three-to-five-year career road map, mentoring with leading global editors as well as group mentoring.
WIN also provides exchange programmes and network building opportunities for participants to grow.
As a way of giving back as well as fast-tracking growth, participants are given an opportunity to mentor female students in tertiary institutions under the Future Leaders’ component of the programme.
In Zambia, WIN has collaborated with the Children’s Rights Network, Cavendish University and now with the University of Zambia on this component. While helping the participants to grow, Future Leaders programme also helps to prepare students for a smooth transition into industry.
Advocacy was one of the major components, including certified training introduced in the second phase of the WIN programme, which runs from 2015 to 2019.
Advocacy component was born out of the realisation that despite women being empowered with necessary skills, the environment in their media organisations still remained inhibitive to their career progression.
Through the advocacy component, WIN partners with media organisations to identify industry-led solutions to close the gender gap in their newsrooms, boardrooms and in the content they produce.
WAN-IFRA has been working with chief editors, publishers and chief executive officers to educate and sensitise top managements on the gender gap in newsroom leadership and overcoming gender bias in the news.
WIN also provides practical tools and resources on best practices in gender equality, reducing gender bias in the news, and safety that can be applied within newsrooms.
WIN has been engaging with media heads through one-on-one meetings, roundtables and WIN forums at WAN-IFRA global events.
Through the newly introduced division of Women in News – WIN Advisory – the programme also now delivers bespoke, in-house advice and training services on key operational and management issues to help media improve their gender balance track record and achieve operational excellence.
The training on offer through the WIN advisory include, but not limited to, strategic business planning, mobile news reporting and gender balance in the news.
WIN is currently working with more than 80 media organisations from 15 countries in sub-Saharan Africa, the Middle East and South East Asia, which came on board recently.
The programme is successfully operating in Botswana, Kenya, Malawi, Rwanda, Somalia, Tanzania, Zambia, and Zimbabwe (WIN Africa); Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon and Palestine (Middle East North Africa) and Cambodia, Myanmar, and Vietnam (South East Asia).
Uganda has just come on board with a call for applications from participants, bringing the total number of countries to 16.
In Zambia, WIN has partnered with Zambia Daily Mail, Times of Zambia, Daily Nation, Diamond TV and Millennium Radio in working towards bridging the gender gap in the media.
Over 40 female Zambian journalists have so far gone through this transformative programme.
The programme, which started with only three countries – Botswana, Namibia and Zambia – has certainly grown by leaps and bounds and the impact is there for all to see.
The media, including Zambia Daily Mail, has appreciated the impact of the programme not only on the participants but organisations as well.
As a result of the value deduced from the programme, many participants have been promoted while others have made other career moves.
Zambia Daily Mail and Times of Zambia have reported that more women who graduated from the programme have transitioned into management, which was dominated by men.
For instance, Zambia Daily Mail, which has been a WIN partner since inception, has women to-men ratio of 3:2 at the editorial middle management level.
The media organisations have also reported a good work attitude and dependability on the women that have gone through the programme.
While it is acknowledged that the battle is not over yet because there is still a ceiling to break at the top management level, strides made so far point to a positive trajectory.
WAN-IFRA certainly deserves commendation for its tireless efforts in trying to bridge the gender gap in the media, not forgetting the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida) and the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, which have been the major funders of the programme.
The author is Zambia Daily Mail editorials editor and WAN-IFRA Women In News steering committee member.
Analysis: EMELDA MUSONDA