I want to be the change I want to see
I had just finished editing an article about a report saying men still dominate the media as news makers in Kenya last Sunday when the news editor tapped my shoulder.
“I want to make some changes,” he said. “That article on women and the media should be relegated to a brief because a hotter story has just come in.”
Knowing the newsroom dynamics, I didn’t bother argue with him though I really wanted the story to be played big. It was a true representation of the situation in Kenya where women’s voices are barely audible in the media. The report by the Global Media Monitoring Project 2010 said that 81 per cent of news subjects in Kenya are men, while women take a paltry 19 per cent. The reason why I wanted that story to run prominently was because I wanted women to learn about the situation and do something about it.
But my hands were tied because I’m not in a position to decide what story runs in the newspaper. This is one of the challenges that I face as an advocate of women’s agenda in the media. Both our boardroom and the newsroom are boys’ clubs where women play a minor role. Another challenge is that most women journalists shy away from the hectic print journalism, opting for the more attractive radio and TV reporting. They are not willing to jostle with men in the hunt for new stories. So most stories even those that touch on women directly are told by men. Women also shy away from being news makers. Even to get them comment on topical issues in the vox pop columns is hard. So, it has become very difficult to raise women’s voices in the media.
The solution lies with us women. We have to take an initiative to break the barriers in the media. Upcoming women journalists should be trained to be more persistent and aggressive. I visit my former college frequently and advise girls to stop dreaming about getting behind the microphone after finishing their studies. Save for a talented few, most of us have to work hard to make a headway in this profession. Most women are also quite indifferent when it comes to politics and this explains why we have very few women political reporters. I always advise girls in college to develop a positive attitude towards politics.
I intend to introduce the Pulsewire website to most of the girls so they can build their reporting capacities. I don’t have much experience in women empowerment work but I believe I’ll get all the necessary resources at Pulsewire. I hope to get a mentors to empower the girls. Voices of Our Future correspondents such as Gifty Pearl Abenaab of Ghana have walked this path before and I’m hoping to learn from them. I’ve also found several Kenyan women in Pulsewire who are in the communications industry, and I hope we can share ideas on how to improve women’s presence in the media.