MELODY Chikono, a senior business reporter at Alpha Media Holdings with an interest in business reporting, can attest to the fact that the newsroom does not have a level playing field from a gender perspective.
Just like any other female journalist, Melody has had her own share of challenges in the newsroom.
Her worst nightmare became a reality when she found herself alone as a woman surrounded by “only” men on a business desk writing for a group position for three titles; Newsday, Zimbabwe Independent and The Standard.
Despite having 10 years’ experience in the media industry, making it to the top has been a struggle because her workstation is dominated by men.
“By nature, the newsroom is a boys’ club where they support each other, and being the only female writer on the business desk you always find yourself on the side-lines”, said Chikono.
However – being part of the Women in News (WIN) accelerator program, one of the initiatives of the World Associations of News Publishers established in 2010 to strengthen the capacity of media institutions by addressing the poor representation of women in senior positions – has emboldened her.
“WIN gave me the confidence that I never had before. Although I had so much experience in the media, I had no confidence to stand up and speak to people on a bigger platform. But when I became the chairperson of the WIN Alumni Committee last year, I also found myself presenting on The Future of Journalism at the African Women in Media Conference in Morocco last year. It was a huge breakthrough for me,” she said.
Chikono said through the accelerator programme, she developed a career roadmap that she has been implementing to enhance her career. Because of the coaching and mentorship programs that she has undergone with WIN, Chikono now she feels that nothing will stop her from achieving her dreams.
In an interview with She Corresponds Africa, Deputy Executive Director for Women in News Jane Godia said after realising the challenges and discrimination that women in the media industry were facing, WIN is seeking to increase women’s voices in the newsroom by equipping them with the necessary skills that would enable them to stand up for themselves.
“We are creating a space for female journalists where their recognition and voices can be equal to that of their male counterparts. This is done by equipping women journalists, as well as editors with skills, strategies, and support networks,” she said.
“As Women in News, we believe that balanced newsrooms, balanced board rooms, and balanced content are key to building resilient news organisations.
“It is impossible to say you are a resilient media organisation when you discriminate against women. Therefore, we are bridging-in that gap by equipping women with skills that help them to fight sexual harassment in the newsroom.”
The Women in News program started in 2010 bringing together participants from Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Zambia and Malawi and the first meeting was held in Zimbabwe and later expanded to other countries in 2015 when more countries in Sub-Saharan Africa and South East Asia started showing interest and joined with a vision for capacity building for women in the media industry.
The initiative has been engaging female journalists in forms cohorts and due to overwhelming applications, more women from countries such as Uganda, Botswana, and Zimbabwe, Malawi among others were affianced.
After an intense nine months of training last year, a group of 185 participants graduated virtually.
This cohort was the largest group since the establishment of the WIN initiative in 2010.
Ruhusiwa Magazine-Assistant Editor, Sinikiwe Marodza, one of the female journalists who graduated said the program is not a kids’ play, it demands a lot but everything that a trainee goes through is worth it.
“Before WIN, I was hesitant to become both a mother and also continue with my journalism career. I didn’t know how best I can balance the two considering that both of the roles are so demanding,” she said.
“But, when I joined WIN, after some coaching sessions with my mentor, I was taught how to address my fears; how balance the two responsibilities as well as taking up new challenges with my head held high. The program capacitated me on how to manage both without making one role suffer at the expense of the other.”
Marodza stressed that sometimes the emotions of women overrule rationality and end up ruining their careers.
It is not easy to be strong as a woman. Our hearts as so fragile due to our caring nature. So we easily get touched by so many things. But WIN managed to capacitate us to become strong and develop a clear roadmap on how to grow as females in the male-dominated industry. Therefore, to acquire enough qualifications as I prepare myself for a leadership role, I recently enrolled at the Zimbabwe Open University and I am also planning on enrolling for a short course on how to become a successful mentor and trainer – because I started my mentorship program for young women who would like to pursue a journalism career,” said Marodza
WIN also created an opportunity for women to interact and learn from other successful women in media through a mentorship program.
“Just like any other female journalist from less privileged communities, being part of the WIN program (and) rubbing shoulders with successful women was like life-changing for me,” said Nyasha Blessing Dube, founder and editor of the Women’s Weekly Journal.
“It has always been my passion to write issues related to marginalised women in my community, giving them a platform to share their stories. Sometimes it becomes difficult as we get emotional due to some of the issues that we encounter during our line of work,” she said.
“Therefore, the WIN program has been more therapeutic for me in terms of addressing our mental health through the coaching sessions. I learnt how to manage emotions at work, how to navigate through sexual harassment, media management, and mentorship sessions among other things.”
This year WIN has engaged its alumni through advanced growth, mentoring, coaching, social media management, career progression, financial management, strategic management, and digital transformation among other things.