Twenty female journalists from the print, broadcast and online media converged on Lagos between July 29 and 1st August for the third series of the “Report Women! Female Reporters’ Leadership Programme” (FRLP), an initiative of the Wole Soyinka Centre for Investigative Journalism (WSCIJ) and supported by Free Press Unlimited.
It was a moment of high expectation for the 20 participants who were selected from a pool of 207 applicants from nine countries including Nigeria, Ghana, South Africa, Malawi, Uganda, Togo, Bostwana, Tanzania and India. The programme is aimed at bridging the gender gap in the newsroom by building female journalists’ capacities to emerge at the highest leadership roles in their organisations.
The project was launched in 2014, with the collaboration of the Royal Netherlands Embassy with the goal of increasing the reportage of the issues of access and abuse as they affect girls and women in Nigeria but was inaugurated in 2017 with 14 fellows and later increased to 19 fellows in 2018.
The 2019 participants are expected to go through a six months programme that will entail a three months mentorship which commenced immediately after the completion of the four-day training.
While in Lagos, the participants went through an intensive four-day training with six erudite resource persons including seasoned broadcaster and public speaking and communication coach, Bimbo Oloyede, CEO of Media Trust Ltd. Publishers of Daily Trust and other titles, Mannir Dan Ali; seasoned journalists, Rotimi Sankore and Lekan Otufodunrin; Strategy and Gender Specialists, Nneka Okekearu; management and development consultant on gender, right and social justice advocate, Comfort Ogunye; as well as the Managing Editor of YNaija, Isime Esene.
Speaking on the status of female reporters in the newsroom, the Wole Soyinka Centre for Investigative Journalism coordinator, Motunrayo Alaka said the programme is the centre’s response to bridging the gender gap in the newsroom which presently favours male journalists.
Alaka explained that findings from a 2017 survey conducted by the centre on the leadership status of women in Nigeria’s newsroom shows a discouraging situation. “We found that leadership at the desk level was fairly balanced as there are women that head desks like health, crime, women issues, bureau chiefs and more. The challenge however seems to be moving from the desk level to the next hierarchy,” she said.
The centre coordinator described the media as a moral compass in any given society and should be seen to champion the cause of inclusivity, which must start from the newsroom.
A reporter with DAAR Communications, stationed in Bauchi State, Omobola Grace Farayola, expressed joy at being part of the next crop of leaders who will take charge in the news room.
She said as a broadcast journalist, the training had exposed her to better techniques in presentations adding that, “the training also exposed a lot of mistakes I made while reporting which I thought didn’t count. But very crucial for me is the need to pay more attention to female respondents on the field.”
Omobola explained that; “I have learned how to be part of the change around me, how to give voice to women and how to stories using the gender lens.
On her part, Elfridah Kevin-Alerechi, a multimedia freelance journalist with Today 95.1FM said the most rewarding part of the training has been lessons from the speaking techniques. “I talk too fast, which most times make it difficult for others to understand what I say. Because of that, I make a lot of mistakes when I speak. But I now practice some of the techniques from the training which include taking breathes and pausing as well as listening to myself when I speak. This I cannot forget.”
She said she was also conscious of the need to anticipate the impact of her stories adding that, “it shouldn’t just be a report but one that should make impact.”
Elfridah said she was already anxious to start implementing lessons learnt from the training and have already discuss with her Head of station on the need to step down the training to other staff of the station.