Sexual harassment in the newsroom is still a topic of concern, resuscitating calls for strict enforcement of media workplace policies. From east to west Africa, women in the media have recently decried this widespread practice that has frustrated many into leaving the profession unwillingly.
“So many women journalists are harassed by some male managers who demand sexual favours in exchange for jobs,” said Anna Nimiriano Siya, Editor-in-Chief of the Juba Monitor. Concerned, she recently called a meeting of female journalists in Juba, South Sudan, and many of them confirmed that they were being harassed for social relationships.
“We have to encourage women journalists to do their work and to speak out against any form of harassment at their workplace. Most of the victims do not report for fear of victimisation,” Siya pointed out in Nairobi recently. She was speaking at a panel discussion on “Gender Gaps and the Media”, during a three-day African Women in Media 2019 Conference that took place on July 25 to 27 at the University of Nairobi.
In Kenya, a recent survey conducted by Roshani Consultancy Services found that sexual abuse against female journalists was still a big problem. Responses from the journalists interviewed indicated that female reporters were confronted with promises of being assigned big stories and better working conditions as long as they consented to sexual engagements with their bosses. According to the study, titled, Heshima: Highlighting and Eliminating Sexual Harassment in the Media, most sexual harassers were male editors, bureau chiefs and supervisors.
Chioma Agwuegbo, a media and tech specialist from Nigeria, believes that technology can help empower women to solve such problems. She cited a wave of tech activism in Nigeria that has granted speed in addressing sexual abuse even within the media. “We must be intentional about using technology for the advancement of women’s rights,” she said.
The discussion did not end before panellists pointing out that in addition to sexual harassment, women in the newsroom were generally paid less compared to their male counterparts. Siya, the Juba Monitor Editor-in-Chief, decried this situation, which she said often prompted female journalists to quit upon getting even just slightly better opportunities.
The gender pay gap is real, according to Joy Kaguri, the Human Resources Manager of The Standard Group, a media company in Kenya. “This is happening in the media. It is (also) outside the media. Women earn less,” she pointed out.
Her organisation, she said, conducted a salary harmonisation and women emerged the biggest beneficiaries. Kaguri said the company had further instituted inclusivity policies to bring about equity.