There were high expectations right from the start when Women in News (WIN) sent out a call for applications for female journalists in Uganda to join the programme. Many questions were asked with potential applicants eager to have more information and needing to confirm whether their applications came through or not.
At the deadline, 52 women had submitted their applications. Out of these, 26 were selected to make it into the inaugural cohort of WIN Uganda.
The selected women came from varied backgrounds. From those finding their feet in journalism, to those who have had over 20 years of experience, the women journalists from Uganda were eager to join the WIN Programme. The younger journalists wanting to learn from those who have been there and done it. The older journalists interested in honing their skills, particularly in leadership and management.
The Norwegian Ambassador to Uganda, Susan Eckey, who was the guest of honour at the launch did not mince words. She said there must be a paradigm shift in cultural norms for women in the media to rise to positions of leadership and management.
Eckey particularly singled out sexual harassment as a vice that was sending many women out of the newsroom. She said this must be addressed by media organisations if women are to break the glass ceiling and rise to positions of leadership and management. “Sexual harassment is unacceptable and everything must be done to curb the vice for women in media space to grow.”
Eckey also noted the lack of access to equal opportunities for women journalists in Uganda. She particularly singled out hard news like politics where there were no female analysts. “Media is about culture and media is culture. Unfortunately, women are marginalised by culture which makes it difficult for them to claim their rightful positions even among the most determined and enduring lot.”
When introducing the programme, WIN Africa Director, Dr. Tikhala Chibwana, was quick to point out that the WIN programme was different from other programmes that the journalists may have gone through. He said: “When women go through the WIN Programme, they are completely transformed because they are not told how to sort out their problems or given solutions but they discover how to take charge of their lives and careers.”
Chibwana reiterated: “What one puts in is what one gets out of the WIN Programme and it all depends on one’s level of commitment because success breeds success.”
The WINners were encouraged to ensure that at the end of the programme they will have done themselves and Uganda proud to aid in bringing more support to the programme. In her opening remarks, Barbara Kaija, who is a member of the WIN Africa Steering Committee and Editor in Chief at the Vision Group said: “The sponsorship from the Norwegian Government will facilitate women journalists to acquire leadership skills, interact with colleagues, learn how to discuss leadership challenges and come up with solutions.”
She noted: “The gender expectations from society are often very challenging for the career growth of women journalists. There is a need to learn and circumnavigate those challenges and juggle the different roles.”
Margaret Sentamu, Executive Director of Uganda Media Women Association (UMWA) said: “Many women join the media industry or training schools to get the required qualifications to excel. However, despite these developments, women in the media are still marginalized and excluded from the top management positions.”
In her advice to this first cohort of WIN Uganda, Sentamu said: “It’s the mindset of an individual that matters because in order to make a difference in one’s personal development and career, one has to make the necessary investment.”
Written by: Jane Godia