The International Association of Women in Radio and Television (IAWRT) Uganda chapter is in the process of rolling out a mentorship program to help female journalists level up to their male counterparts in terms of competitiveness for important roles in newsrooms.
“We are working on a mentorship program and collecting a database of accomplished female media personalities to act as mentors. They will move to every media house and pick out journalists according to their skills and mentor them,” said Eunice Nankwanga Kasirye, the new president IAWRT Uganda chapter.
Speaking on the sidelines of the ongoing IAWRT regional conference at Imperial Botanical Beach Hotel Entebbe Tuesday, Kasirye noted that currently female journalists are marginalised in newsrooms, they are not given priority when it comes to promotion and assignments.
“Female journalists in Uganda are treated like vulnerable groups. They are not given free space to exercise their rights and duties as journalists. When it comes to deployment for serious assignments, priority is given to the males,” she said.
She said that the assigning editors tend to use the dressing code of the women and their married status to deny them a chance to prove their worth.
For long, women journalists have decried the poor pay and marginalization in terms of promotions, assignments to cover big issues and sexual abuse.
Mary Karooro Okurut, the minister in charge of general duties noted that the gender disparity in the media industry is largely found in the private media houses which do not have guidelines on pay and promotions and cannot be regulated by government.
However, she accused female journalists of not speaking up against marginalization and implored them to let their voices be heard.
“We cannot become concerned about your issues when you are quite. Speak up until you feel that these disparities have been addressed,” she said
Col. Shaban Bantariza, the deputy Executive Director of Uganda Media Centre, noted that though the condition of female journalists is deplorable, it’s upon them to rise up and advocate for better working conditions.
He said as a country, Uganda is working towards ensuring that there is a 30% representation of women in the highest public offices.
He implored media houses to do the same, without which, they will be breaking the law.
IAWRT is a global organization formed by professional women working in electronic media with a mission to strengthen initiatives towards ensuring women’s views and values are an integral part of programing and, to advance the impact of women in media.
According to Violet Gonda, the IAWRT international president, the organization has over 400 members and 14 chapters in the world.
In her remarks, she noted that female journalists are still a long way in terms of creating spaces in work places, from emancipation and getting their issues addressed.
She noted that the situation is the same worldwide and that as IAWRT, they have been able to source opportunities such as training scholarships to help bridge the gap.
While responding to the recent attacks on journalists, Bantariza noted that though both government and media need each other, the relationship just like any other, is not perfect.
“Government treats the media as a vital partner in social economic and political development of our country. We are not enemies. We need you for the communication of our programs to the masses and you need us for protection while executing your duties,” he said.
Okurut asked journalists to pay more attention on the rural women, arguing that they have many pressing issues which the mainstream media has failed to highlight.
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INTERNATIONAL CENTER FOR THE PROTECTION AND FREEDOM OF JOURNALISTS