The African Freedom of Expression Exchange (AFEX), on the occasion of the International Women’s Day (IWD), called on governments and stakeholders across the continent to work together to ensure that women journalists and media professionals carry out their work in a free and safe environment.
It also urged everyone in Africa to join forces to promote freedom of expression rights of women as well as support women to venture into journalism while commending women journalists, media professionals and activists who have remained steadfast in their duty of informing and educating the public.
Commemorating this year’s edition of the IWD, AFEX shared the experiences of three female journalists who work in Liberia, Somalia and Uganda to highlight the daily trials and horror women journalists encounter in carrying out their duties.
In Liberia, Antoinette Yah Sendolo, the Secretary General of the Female Journalists Association of Liberia told AFEX that male attitude towards women journalists tend to devalue the capabilities of their female counterparts.
Antoinette noted that “It is yet to be understood by most people including news makers, managers and even male journalists that being a female journalist doesn’t in any way makes you less a journalist.”
Some other challenges female journalists face she said, include sexual harassment on a daily basis; being placed in lower positions in newsrooms; and paid lesser than their male counterparts. She noted that this is not necessarily because they are not qualified or competent but because of their gender and how society perceives them.
Nimo Hassan Abdi, Chairperson of Somali Women Journalists Club sharing some of the challenges and threats she faces as a woman journalist in Somalia lamented of how frightened she gets staying at home all by herself, in fear of being identified and attacked.
She also said it was difficult getting a job as a female journalist and pointed out the daily challenges that discourage women from venturing into journalism. She said female journalists are paid lower salary compared to men and they are unable to report on issues of abuses against women due to fear of intimidation.
Somalia has been tagged as one of the most dangerous places to practice journalism and given the security situation in the country, women are particularly more vulnerable. Sometimes in 2015, a female journalist who worked with Radio Mogadishu was killed in a car explosion and about Six months later, another female journalist working with the same station was killed by unknown armed men.
Bahati Remmy, a female political and investigative reporter working with NBS Television gave the Uganda story. She said most women journalists lacked the courage and enthusiasm to cover important events like riots or protests which are seen to be male domains.
Bahati who was one of the journalists arrested in 2016 by Ugandan police for covering events at the residence of opposition leader, Kizza Besigye after the country’s elections has encouraged more women to enroll in journalism courses and be trained to become media professionals.
The IWD is celebrated every March 8 as a day set aside to commemorate the achievements and contributions of women all over the world and also to highlight the challenges women face in society. The theme for this year’s celebration of International Women’s Day is Women in the Changing World of Work: Planet 50-50 by 2030.