Current disruptions in media with shrinking newsrooms presented a double challenge for women who were already under-represented, said Daily Nation executive editor Pamella Sittoni.
Sittoni was the keynote speaker at the launch of the IWMF- WIN Women Media Leaders’ Bootcamp in Naivasha, Kenya, from January 25 - 30, 2019 aimed at building the leadership capacity of female African journalists.
“When the media shrinks, women’s representation is reduced,” said Sittoni. “This challenge notwithstanding, my personal view is that the burning debate about the imminent death of the media has overshadowed the important debate on what the media must do in order to play its important role in society."
She urged women attending the leadership bootcamp to use technology to enable their storytelling: “Digital platforms have given us the space to reach larger audiences at greater speed and we must embrace technology as an enabler of our journalism and not vilify it,” she said.
Sittoni said the future of journalism would be defined by how willing society was to support quality journalism with funding to equip journalists - particularly women journalists - with the skills to tell those stories.
Building the capacity of women journalists was critical as the future was also dependent on diversity. “To exclude women from the leadership of any organisation is to exclude half of the ideas, half of society and, particularly for media, to exclude half the perspective and half of your audience,” said Sittoni.
The time had come, she said, for more women leaders to take up positions: "We belong and we must be there,” said Sittoni.
WAN-IFRA director for media development Melanie Walker said the bootcamp was part of a greater programme to raise the profile of women in media.
“Bringing women media leaders from different contexts and countries together for learning, knowledge sharing and networking is at the heart of the Women in News programme. On average, we are four times more likely to hear or read the opinion of a man that that of a woman - that is simply not acceptable.
“The women in this room today are going to change that. It is our hope that we can play our part to facilitate and to encourage this through training and workshops such as this one,” said Walker.
Eisa Lees Munoz, director of the International Women’s Media Foundation (IWMF), noted that the bootcamp was the culmination of a five year programme in the Great Lakes region.
“This bootcamp marks the beginning of an exciting partnership with WAN-IFRA and Women in News with whom we share a mission and vision to support African female journalists,” said Munoz.
The IWMF’s programme was driven by a desire to see women in Africa report their own news and tell their own stories.
“There cannot be press freedom until women are part of the process,” said Munoz, adding that this lack of representation was a global problem.
“Diversity is needed to tell the story without stereotyping and gender bias,” Munoz added.
The bootcamp was attended by more than 115 women journalists, including 80 WIN participants, from 14 countries - including Botswana, DRC, Egypt, Kenya, Malawi, Morocco, Nigeria, Rwanda, South Africa, South Sudan, Tanzania, Uganda and Zimbabwe across Africa.
Designed as a dynamic leadership retreat, the programme emphasised peer mentorship, networking and cross-border collaborations.
It included intensive training on data journalism, mobile storytelling, photography, podcasting, safety, sexual harassment and trauma sensitive reporting as well as media management training by frayintermedia’s Paula Fray.