Sexual Harassment Limits Women’s Advancement in Tanzanian Media

This disturbing claim, and many others like it, surfaced in research commissioned by Internews in Tanzania on women’s role in media in the country. Women who aim for media careers face rampant discrimination, a lack of opportunities, and demands for transactional sex. These threats aren’t just in the workplace, but often face university students as well.

“One of our goals is to empower women journalists to become editors,” said Angela Nicoara, Internews Chief of Party in Tanzania. Internews’ Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment Strategy prioritizes work that transforms relationships of power and advances women’s roles in media. “But our conversations with women showed that sexual exploitation at universities, including journalism schools, and in media houses was seen as a main obstacle of being employed or promoted.”

University students and lecturers reported that transactional or coerced sex between female students and male lecturers occurs with some frequency. A female student stated that she received a failing grade from a male lecturer because she had refused his sexual advances.

Some universities in Tanzania have sexual harassment explicitly included in their code of conduct, while others do not. Many students and lecturers alike were not sure if their school had a sexual harassment policy and where to go to report sexual misconduct, and agreed that the problem isn’t talked about publicly. So Internews collaborated with the University of Dar es Salaam to create public service announcement videos (PSAs) that raised the topic. One video opens with the question: “How do we combat Sexual Harassment?”

“First, we talk about it. The issue of sexual harassment is like a taboo. It’s been talked behind closed doors … in low voices,” says Sophia Ndibalema, Assistant Lecturer at the School of Journalism and Mass Communications at UDSM, in the PSA.

The PSAs discuss different forms harassment can take, and assert that students should not stay silent about the topic. “If you experience or see sexual harassment, speak up. Someone will listen,” ends one PSA.

The videos are intended as a jumping off point for further discussion and action. In June Internews will convene a roundtable at the university with students, women lawyers and women activists to discuss the next steps of a campaign. “Our goal is spark more conversation and support local CSOs that take the lead in raising awareness and changing the dynamic for women journalism students and professionals,” said Nicoara.

Key Findings: Gender Discrimination and Sexual Harassment Derails Careers

Excerpted from the Gender Equality and Social Inclusion Analysis Report, conducted by FHI 360 in partnership with Internews

  • Women are less likely than men to pursue higher level journalism diplomas and degrees
  • Women and men are segmented into different journalism career paths:
    • Men occupy more prestigious reporting positions, while women are lower-level reporters or presenters with little decision-making power.
  • Women’s domestic responsibilities reduce opportunities to participate in work and school
    • Female students who live at home, and women professionals generally, are responsible for domestic tasks such cooking, cleaning, and caring for children or younger siblings.
  • Perceptions of women and men in media affect their career success:
    • Men are perceived as adventurous, proactive, and decisive. Women are perceived as having little self-confidence, both as media professionals and sources of information.
  • Negative stereotypes about women journalists create gender-segregated workstreams
    • Many people have a perception that women are not capable of reporting on “hard” news or doing “tough” assignments.
  • Perception of danger inhibits skill-building opportunities for female journalism students
    • Campus TV/radio studios and computer lab are dominated by male students and lecturers, and female students may fear harassment or be prohibited by their families from staying after hours to build or practice skills in these spaces.
  • Toxic masculinity reinforces sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV) throughout media and journalism
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Internews’ work with media and civil society in Tanzania is supported by USAID and implemented in partnership with FHI 360.