Women Belong in Media

Online harassment of women has been in the news recently. Women journalists are a particular target, so much so that journalism organizations are publishing guides such as this one from the Columbia Journalism Review — How women journalists can protect themselves online, and forming help desks including one in Islamabad, Pakistan.

The extremity of the harassment has led some women to silence or censor themselves, posing a threat to freedom of expression.

Publicizing and shedding light on this abuse and seeking ways to address the issue can begin to help protect women from further harassment. That extends to other forms of gender-based violence, such as domestic abuse, forced marriages, rape and human trafficking.

In their reporting on these issues, women journalists often bring a different perspective and are more likely to challenge stereotypes than male reporters, according to The Global Media Monitoring Project.

Below, meet nine of the tens of thousands of women Internews has partnered with and trained in media skills. Many have focused their reporting on gender roles and representation, but their impact is broader. Having women on the air and in newsrooms, particularly in societies where women are marginalized, allows for greater reporting on all issues, not just women’s issues.

Tasneem Ahmar, Pakistan

“The continued negative, sensational and derogatory portrayal of women in the media was the driving force behind my starting Uks, which means “reflection” in Urdu. I wanted to reach out to Pakistan’s media managers — all male — and take up the case of gender sensitivity in the media.

My basic aim was to make the media realize that what they were doing — at times unthinkingly and unintentionally — was actually harming women’s development, as the news content was creating and strengthening the existing bias against women.”

Tasneem sits in studio with radio equipment
Journalist Tasneem Ahmar launched the Uks Research Center in 1997 to foster fair and sensitive reporting on women’s issues in Pakistan.

Under Tasneem Ahmar’s leadership, the Islamabad-based Uks Rsearch Center has worked tirelessly to promote gender equality through radio productions on women’s issues, research and publications, advocacy and media monitoring. Ahmar also established the Pakistani Women’s Media Network, the first ever network for Pakistani women working in the media to encourage more positive portrayals of women, increase female representation at all levels, and improve conditions for women working in media.

Mae Azango, Liberia

“Women and girls are the vulnerable group in society. And if we women don’t talk about what affects women most, men journalists won’t. If female journalists keep quiet, those things will keep happening to us.”

Mae Azango interviews a girl
Mae Azango, journalist for FrontPage Africa and New Narratives. (credit: Glenna Gordon/New Narratives)

Although Mae Azango has received death threats and even lost a job over her discussion of sensitive topics, she remains a staunch advocate for the rights of Liberia’s women and girls.

Now writing for FrontPage Africa and New Narratives in Liberia, Azango was one of 18 leading media professionals from around the world whom Internews brought to UNESCO’s World Press Freedom conference in Costa Rica in May 2013.

Ah Mee, Myanmar

“Young people leave school at around Grade 4. They are missing so much- it’s my dream to have a show that reaches them.”

Ah Mee on her cell phone with children and a man playing in the background
Ah Mee faces major challenges reporting from Shan and Kachin states in Myanmar where local authorities are suspicious of journalists. (credit: Kim Nguyen van Zoen/Internews)

Ah Mee, a radio and video reporter and ethnic Lisu from Kachin State, has an acute sense of what it’s like to live in territories still steeped in virtual silence, as there are only a handful of journalists in her region of Myanmar. She hopes to one day have her own radio or TV show for youth, in order to help make a dent in the deprivation she sees during her travels in ethnic areas. Across these regions, she says, education levels are low, political awareness is lacking, and few have relationships beyond their communities.

Anna Mayimona Ngemba, Democratic Republic of Congo

“There are more and more media outlets that have programming on women. But when you look at the content, although the conversation is about women’s rights, it sometimes opens the door or lends support to reinforcing certain stereotypes. There are, for example, shows on women’s affairs, where women’s roles are limited to family and reproduction. So it keeps women in these socially accepted roles instead of also showing examples of successful women in politics, business or other areas.” (AWID article)

woman holding a book with two men
Working with a network of journalists across the DRC, Ucofem created a Directory of Female Resources of the DRC (FERES) that journalists can use to find female experts in more than 40 subject areas. (credit: Internews)

Anna Mayimona Ngemba co-founded and runs the Congolese Union of Women in Media (Ucofem), established in 1996 to reduce gender inequality by improving the representation of women in the media. Last year, Ucofem launched the serial radio drama Et l’homme et la femme (Both Men and Women) to sensitize people across the DRC about gender issues that arise in everyday life, from the workplace to markets to the home.

Nabeela Aslam, Pakistan

“Women speaking about issues in their own voices is very powerful. We need more women on air!”

Nabeela interviewing two women
Nabeela Aslam interviews a landless villager in Hyderabad, Pakistan. Aslam reported for Meri Awaz Suno, (Hear My Voice), Pakistan’s first independent syndicated radio program that featured women as both producers and subjects.

Nabeela Aslam comes from a farming family in rural Punjab. The fifth of six daughters, she left home early to pursue a reporting career. She worked with a liberal newspaper and then as a newsletter editor for a non-profit health organization. Then Nabeela went to Meri Awaz Suno, an Internews-supported women’s radio production house, where she and her team produced a 15-minute radio magazine that covered mainstream issues from women’s perspectives.

Christine Akuol, South Sudan

“My best [radio program] so far is one that I did on forced marriage. I had to do a program on that since it had happened to me.”

headshot of Christine Akuol

Forced into marriage at age 16, Christine Akuol has a personal interest in covering issues of importance for women and girls. She was eventually able to leave the marriage, but not before becoming pregnant, and having to give up her dream of finishing school. But in 2010, when a new community radio station was established in her community in South Sudan, Akuol became part of a five-member team trained by Internews as community radio station reporters.

Saida Swaleh, Kenya

“Journalism is a passion; you either have it or you don’t. We don’t get paid enough, we work tirelessly, we put our lives on the line and we are sometimes killed in the line of duty. But we are out there bringing the truth to society.”

image of Saida reporting on youtube
Saida Swaleh is a reporter for KTN TV (credit: KTN)

Though she had only been working as a journalist for about a year, in 2012 Saida Swaleh was honored as first runner-up for the Media Council of Kenya’s Young Journalist of the Year Awards. In 2013, she won the Gender Reporting Award with her colleague Angel Katusia. Called “Flesh of My Flesh,” the winning story was about the sex trade and included interviews with women who were sex workers and drug dealers. In June 2013, she produced an in-depth story with Angel Katusia for KTN called “Prisoner of My Skin” on the brutal trade in the body parts of people living with albinism.

Taghreed Emoor, Gaza

“I’ve always wanted to be an international sports anchor. My entire family is passionate about sport. My brother is even a soccer player on the Palestinian national team!”

two women in headscarves talking with a laptop
Taghreed Emoor (right) has dreamed of being an international sports anchor since childhood. (credit: Internews)

Gaza has very few female sports anchors and competition for radio reporting jobs is fierce, but Taghreed Emoor was determined to follow her dream. She pursued reporting at a local college, and went on to get her associates degree in journalism and public relations.

Soon after, Emoor landed a job with Alwan Radio, a network of independent radio stations broadcast throughout Gaza. Emoor became Program Manager at Alwan Sports Radio — one of the few female sports reporters in Gaza.

Fabienne Viltis, Haiti

“My life was not normal. But I was determined to leave this black hole. I have been helped. With more studies, I may become an Ambassador — that will give me the opportunity to help others in need.”

Fabienne pointing to a sign out front of the radio station where she works
Fabienne Viltis has made a name for herself as a host for a show on community station Radio Boukman. (credit: Louise Brunet/ Internews)

Despite spending many a school day under her desk, dodging gun battles fought by gangs in Cité Soleil, one of Haiti’s poorest, roughest, and most dangerous areas, Fabienne Viltis was determined to make a success of her studies. She attended a series of radio production seminars conducted by Internews, and produced her own cultural affairs program. Fabienne’s major objective was to be an example for Cité Soleil’s youth.

Celebrate and support women and girls who are changing the world through media, information and technology by attending an event in Menlo Park, CA on October 21, 2015.

Learn more about the women journalists that Internews works with around the world and Internews’ new five-year initiative, Women’s Voices, Powering Change.

(This story was originally posted on Medium.)