Updated: Mar 1
Each week, frayintermedia highlights a journalist doing good work on the continent and honours them as our #FaveOfTheWeek. Meet Ugandan journalist Nila Yasmin who is also a TV and documentary producer and the co-founder of GLIM which is a women empowerment media brand that celebrates, inspires and empowers women in Africa.
Q. How did you become a journalist?
A. I think I always knew what I wanted from the get-go, and I'm one of those people who follow where their heart takes them. As a child, I remember I had a special fondness for the media. I loved reading newspapers so much. It was my favourite pastime. And my mother is one of those people who never miss out on news. So I'd always find myself seated with her watching the news. And with time, I developed a certain interest in everything that was going on around me. To me, I think that was the basis and foundation for my love for the media.
Fast-forward to when I joined university doing a bachelor's degree in commerce: I was studying the evening programme so that meant that my daytime was free. So I decided to get something to fill that time. And for some reason I found myself walking to a radio station. The boss asked me what I wanted to do on radio and the first thing that came to mind was I had to read the news because I thought it was the easiest thing to do – which actually isn't true.
So he asked his producer to take my voice test and I was given a window of two hours to do that. So I remember practising so much, reading newspapers. And luckily they had a slot for a news anchor. They had just lost the person who was reading the news.
Then the next day the radio boss called me into his office. And his first question was: “How much would you like to earn?” Oh, it was such a surreal moment.
Q. What are some of your highlights from sharing women’s stories through GLIM?
A. Firstly, I would like to say that it's always a novel experience because each woman has a unique story and there is always a lot to learn from each one of them. Personally, I enjoy sitting down, having a chat with them, having them share their experiences, aspirations, what drives them, what makes them, and putting this together into one wonderful story that will also inspire and empower others. It's always a very, very nice feeling.
Q. What stories should African journalists be telling more?
A. I think African journalists have a duty and a responsibility to change the narrative about the continent, and those are the stories that we should be telling more. For the longest time, our continent has been misrepresented to the rest of the world in the media with stories of poverty, harrowing sicknesses and disease, among other negative stuff, mostly making it to their news. So we need to talk about Africa and what Africa really is in an organic way. I would love to see more stories of beauty, culture, entrepreneurship.
There is a new breed of young, innovative Africans who are breaking boundaries. I would love to see more such stories. And I'm quite impressed that now other international media houses, like, for example, CNN, are telling great stories and positive stories about the African continent.
Q. What makes an exceptional journalist?
A. In my opinion, an exceptional journalist is one who respects that we have the responsibility to give accurate and correct information to their audience and also an exceptional journalist is one who relies on their conscience and not emotions and feelings. Why conscience? I think our conscience acts as that moral compass within us that tells us to do the right thing. And once you follow your conscience and it's good, then you will not have the need to tell stories that bring other people down or tell stories with negative connotations. You would be guided to tell stories that uplift others, that shines the spotlight on different issues that are affecting your community. And you would actually use your journalistic tool as a platform for good and not as one that breaks others down.
Q. Despite all the challenges in the profession, why do you continue to be a journalist?
A. Despite the challenges that journalists face, I continue to execute my work with so much zeal and passion because to me journalism is a calling and I made a conscious decision to use it as a platform to serve others and as a tool for good. So I'm always inspired when I tell stories of, for example, women entrepreneurs whose stories would otherwise not make it to the mainstream media.
And after telling such incredible stories, you see the mainstream media pick up on them. And before you know it their stories, products and services are exposed to a wider market and a wider audience. And this has unlocked, for example, market opportunities, funding opportunities and opportunities of partnerships. Those are some of the things that keep me going. Just seeing that I can be able to use my talents and skills to help another woman achieve their dreams. And through telling their stories, you are also able to empower and instil confidence in other young women.