In December 2015, five Kenyan women journalists embarked on a life and career-changing journey courtesy of World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers (WANIFRA). The five: Anne Mbotela, Everlyn Kwamboka, Faith Oneya, Mercy Njoroge, and Wanjiru Kinoti were part of a six-month Women in News (WIN) programme whose objective is to bring together media women with potential to equip them with necessary skills so as to reach their full potential in their media houses.
37 women journalists from Sub-Saharan Africa, attended in – house resident trainings in Kenya, South Africa and Zimbabwe. Ms. Christine Nguku who is the national coach, WIN Kenya and also a member of the Association of Media Women in Kenya (AMWIK) spearheaded the Kenya trainings.
Sharing lessons from WIN – The power of three
Faith Oneya on potential opportunities for networking:“Even though many see the requirements needed to participate in the WIN programme as a barrier, such an opportunity presents a platform for networking with professionals from around Africa, sharing of challenges and newsroom experience. It provides the mentee with fresh eyes for learning and impacts them positively.”
In addition, women in media are encouraged not to be defined by stereotypes. Rather, come up with support groups and be professional cheerleaders where besides encouraging women, personal challenges are discussed and apt solutions reached.
Wanjiru Kinoti notes that the WIN programme through peer mentoring also forms the basis for research and funding, citing the WINning Strategies: Creating Stronger News Media organizations by Increasing Gender Diversity handbook which seeks to promote highlighting of media success stories in gender diversity.
“Women have interesting stories to tell but do not know how to tell them,” Wanjiru notes adding; “As such, peer mentorship comes in to help women in news who feel stifled and challenged to overcome such hurdles. This is where learning from the boss and getting feedback from peers is crucial, as such learning enables the mentees to work on their weaknesses and assertiveness.
It’s not an easy road though, as Ann Mbotela concurs, “No action, no movement, no traction.”
The mentees also learnt how to set personal goals. The Women in News being a management program revolves around managing oneself, particularly in areas of time management, change management and financial management thus enablingmentees to advancetheir careers.
Ann opines that it is vital to understand basic precepts such as who should help you move forward, the expertise involved and such values as discipline. “It’s humbling to get a coach because you admit you need help. Above all, it’s a challenging programme but worth the experience.” she concludes.
Birth of a blog
The insights and lessons learnt from the WIN programme spiraled into the creation of a blog. ‘Mercy Talks’ blog is an idea birthed by a WINner – Mercy Njoroge. Living in an era of globalization, technological advancements and shrinking media landscape, a blog is fit as a platform to articulate and highlight women issues.
“Women and girls’ issues are edged out because they are overshadowed by politics.” she says noting, “We need to occupy space online and talk about the issues, because if we don’t, we’ll say women are underrepresented.”
WIN partnership with AMWIK – coaching and mentoring women.
Since 2002, all programs at AMWIK have a component of training and mentorship. This ranges from training of women leaders to monthly mentorship talks with university and college students. Women journalists are too modest and do not tell their own stories, however the mentorship trainings are bearing fruit.
In her closing remarks during the Women in News 3rd national gathering, AMWIK’s Chairperson Ms. Pamela Mburia said, “Unless we are expanding the reach, we’ll be stuck with the question; why can’t we have many other women in the newsrooms? We should be mentored to mentor.” she stressed.