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Patriarchy stifles female journalists’ voices

On Monday, the 3rd of May 2021, Women’s Institute for Leadership Development joined the rest of the world in commemorating International Press Freedom Day, under the theme: “Information as a public good.” The day was commemorated through providing a forum where female journalists discussed the media environment in Zimbabwe, challenges, opportunities, and the complexities at play that women must overcome in the journalism profession.

Annastacia Ndlovu, a seasoned journalist at Voice of America, facilitated the discussion to help women journalists to understand the media environment from a female perspective. She stated that press freedom in Zimbabwe is still not fully realised due to a number of laws that limit the Constitutional right to media freedom.

“Media freedom is not completely recognized because there are still abuses of the press, even though Section 61 of the Zimbabwean Constitution guarantees freedom of expression, but this seems to be on paper only because there are still arbitrary arrests and torture of media personnel,” said Ndlovu.

Ndlovu went on to highlight some of the obstacles that women in media face as a result of sexism.

“Most of the challenges that are faced by women in media stem from the patriarchal nature of our society,” added Ndlovu. “Since women are regarded as frail, lazy, or slow in the newsroom as some stories that are regarded as hard news are therefore allocated to men because due to the perception accorded to women journalists. Soft issues are often covered by women while political ones are given to the allegedly ‘capable’ men.”

Female journalists in attendance agreed that sexism is the root cause of the issues faced by women in media.

“Other women have reported sexual assault and bullying in the workplace. The problem is that if you fall victim, the support systems are also made up of men, who usually defend another man rather than a woman who may have fallen prey to GBV in the place of work,” added one of the female journalists in attendance. “Women need to take a stand and also create their own support systems and stand up for each other in such situations.”

Media personnel collectively came out with recommendations to address some of these problems.

“There ought to be a mentorship program aimed at targeting the development of vibrant women in media and creation of policy reforms in media institutions that support female journalists,” added another journalist who participated in the discussion.

 

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