By Lynette Manzini
Sexual harassment continues to top the list of reasons why female journalists abscond the media industry after training as their work is less appreciated than that of their male counterparts.
This emerged during deliberations on the subject at an event organised Friday last week by Gender Media Connect in partnership with the Swedish embassy in Zimbabwe and FOJO.
The candid discussion ran under the theme, “A conversation about female journalists at the front line of Zimbabwe journalism”.
Realising this problem of abuse in the news rooms, Gender Media Connect has been raising awareness on sexual harassment to training male and female journalist in newsrooms.
The Zimbabwe Independent newspaper Deputy Editor Faith Zaba said one of the major problems being faced by female journalists was sexual harassment in the news room as well as outsiders.
“This has been a deterrent to a lot of female journalists as you find that a lot have had to leave the profession not because they wanted to but as a result of what they were going through,” Zaba said.
ZiFM Stereo Chief Executive Officer Susan Makore said lack of professionalism in the industry especially among subordinates has created loop holes for abuse.
Makore has been in the industry for 19 years with 16 years of them in managerial positions.
“The time I was a manager at ZBC, there were expectations from the young women that were there, because problems of sexual harassment were rearing their ugly head and they continue to do so,” she said.
“Most news rooms do not have set standards, as rules are bent, which has led younger women to use this to their advantage which also allows men in news rooms to get away with murder; basically it becomes an issue of patronage,” Makore said.
Former Editor of Horizon news magazine, Andrew Moyse said the issue of sexual abuse was not only peculiar to the country or the media profession.
Moyse added that while Western countries have dealt with inequality, sexual abuse still exists in areas such as sports and churches.
“The issue of unclear standards needs to be dealt with urgently because I think that is where the issue is. If there are standards, you won’t have sexual abuse and will not be afraid to report it or deal with it.
“If there clear standards in news rooms especially social standards in which workers relate with each other, things would improve rapidly,” said Moyse.
The event was held on a day Sweden celebrated 250 years since becoming the first country to protect media in 1766, when it signed a Bill that was later enacted into law.
Swedish deputy ambassador, Maria Selin said although the total numbers of female journalists in the Zimbabwe media industry were slightly lower than those on the entire SADC region, it was improving.
“Having spoken to female journalists and editors, I know that the reality for a woman journalist may not be the same for their male counterparts and because of that, we need to put a bit of focus on this issue,” she said.
Selin added that it was important to find out the role being played by female journalists ahead of the elections in bringing out issues and nor personalities. Radio VOP