The Wole Soyinka Centre for Investigative Journalism (WSCIJ)’s Report Women Network (REWON) has inducted 12 female journalists into its Female Reporters Leadership Project (FRLP) as part of the 2023 Report Women Fellowship Programme.
The induction and award ceremony which took place in Lagos on September 4, 2023, featured the presentation of gifts and cash prizes to three outstanding journalists for their stories and leadership projects.
Ms Blessing Oladunjoye of BO News Services emerged as the overall winner with a prize of 200,000 naira, a laptop, and a plaque for her story which addresses the unethical practices and absence of substantial law on surrogacy and assisted reproductive technology in Nigeria. For her leadership project, she led a capacity-building workshop for entry-level female journalists.
Ms Sarah Ayeku, a presenter with TVC News, emerged as the first runner-up with a prize of 150,000 naira, a laptop, and a plaque, while Ms Folashade Ogunrinde of TV 360, emerged as the second runner-up with a prize of N100,000, a laptop and a plaque.
Ms Ayeku explored the ineptitude and connivance of some police officers with perpetrators to deny survivors and victims justice, while Ms Ogunrinde’s story highlights the flaws in the administration of criminal justice in Nigeria.
The inductees were Zubaida Baba Ibrahim – HumAngle Media, Abuja; Ijeoma Okereke-Adagba, Centre for Journalism Innovation and Development (CJID), Abuja; Folashade Ogunrinde – TV360 Nigeria, Lagos; and Martha Asumata Agas – News Agency of Nigeria, Plateau; Sarah Ayeku – TVCNews, Lagos and Fortunate Ozo of Nigerian Television Authority (NTA), Ebonyi. Others included Victoria Bamas – International Centre for Investigative Reporting (ICIR), Abuja; Yemi Olus-Galadima – Making of Champions, Lagos; Blessing Oladunjoye – BONews, Lagos; Karina Igonikon of the British Broadcasting Corporation, Pidgin, Rivers; Maryam Abdullahi of The Cable Newspaper, Niger and Olufisoye Adenitan of Federal Radio Corporation of Nigeria (FRCN), Ondo who were all presented with certificates. The latest additions increase the Report Women Network’s Fellows to 86.
The 12 reporters inducted were selected from among the 173 valid applications submitted across Nigeria, with one each from Zambia, Ghana, and Kenya. The induction climaxed the Female Reporters Leadership Programme after months of training and mentorship which included implementation of investigative stories and leadership projects to address issues of access to education, health care, economic empowerment – as well as the issues of abuse – widowhood practice, sexual violence, forced marriage, displacement, domestic violence and other existential challenges that women face. The fellows also embarked on multi-level advocacy and engagement with media management and journalists on the need to change the face of leadership in newsrooms to be as female as they are male.
In her remarks, Mrs. Motunrayo Alaka, Executive Director of WSCIJ, noted that the REWON was designed to intentionally build champions, start conversations that compel media houses to recognise the contributions of their female team members, and force both media and society to reflect on their realities.
She added that the Centre is developing a source guide website of leading women across sectors in Nigeria, engaging media executives and staff of news media organisations within Nigeria to increase the representation of women in their coverage and newsroom leadership and raise champions for the cause of equality.
Ms Bimbo Oloyede, Executive Director of Strictly Speaking Academy, while speaking at the event, congratulated the Fellows and urged them to forge ahead by impacting the media landscape.
Representing the funder, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Mr. Dickson Olewe, Programme Officer for Global Media Partnerships, acknowledged that the programme’s testimonies and outcomes have validated the partnership’s significance. He urged the Fellows and journalists to continue using their platforms to hold policymakers accountable.
Also, Mr. Michel Deelen, Consul General of the Kingdom of the Netherlands in Lagos, applauded the REWON’s vision and its enduring impact since its inception in 2014. He encouraged journalists to maintain their resilience and continue their vital work, emphasising the profound significance of their contributions to society.
Ms Amaka Okoye, a 2019 FRLP Fellow and West African correspondent for Deutsche Welle, representing REWON, welcomed the new cohort of dedicated women using their platforms to share untold stories of women and girls. She described the network as a dynamic group of influential female journalists serving as catalysts for change. The 2023 Fellows were encouraged to harness the existing network support system to maximise their impact through effective networking.
The 2023 FRLP mentors advised the female reporters to be intentional in their stories and project delivery while spotlighting women and girls’ issues in Nigeria. Ms. Stella Din-Jacob, representing the mentors, emphasised that a society thrives when it values women’s contributions and upholds their rights.
The published works span a diverse array of issues, such as the impact of insecurity on the well-being of displaced women and children in IDP camps, human rights abuses and unethical practices within surrogacy facilities, delays in achieving justice for cases of SGBV, the challenges of female coaches in male-dominated sports, women’s inheritance rights, the hazards of traditional birth attendants, and the exploitation of female cleaners in select regions of the North Central geopolitical zone.
Ms Oge Ezeobiorah, Programme Officer, WSCIJ, in her closing remarks, thanked the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation for their support as she congratulated the fellows for their tenacity and determination to succeed during the mentorship as she said the Centre looks forward to seeing more from the newly inducted Fellows.
Ms Favour Benson, Executive Director of the Itah Foundation; Ms Gladys Imoh, Programme Administrator at Action Aid Nigeria; Mr. Tony Lawrence, Head of Programme at Hot FM; Mr. Kehinde Adegboyega, Executive Director of the Human Rights Journalists Network (HRJN) in Nigeria; and Mr. Edetaen Ojo, Executive Director of Media Rights Agenda (MRA), were among the attendees at the hybrid event.
Others included Mr. Kayode Olaitan, Editor at the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN); Mr. Semiu Okanlawon, Editor in chief, PM Reports; Mr. Lekan Otufodurin, Executive Director of Media Career Development; Ms Chinyere Odibo, Chief Legal Officer at the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC); Mr. Asuquo James, Assignment Editor at TVC News; and Ms Comfort Ogunye, Vice President of the Association of African Women for Research and Development (AAWRD) in Nigeria, among many others.