A chance to network face-to-face with media personalities, an opportunity to write for an online magazine, insights on how to launch your brand into the industry and inspiration to relentlessly pursue your dreams. These are just a few of the pluses which young aspiring media trainees were exposed to at the recent AMWIK Mentorship forum held in Nairobi.
The forum, a first by AMWIK, brought together accomplished veteran women in the media industry and young trainees aspiring to pursue careers in the media industry to share resources, support, training and information about issues that affect women in the field.
AMWIK Chairperson, Ms. Pamela Mburia, in her opening remarks compared mentorship to storytelling. “Mentorship helps us to take off in our professional journeys; it is like storytelling. It has the power of inspiring people to move from one position to the other,” she said.
Ms. Mburia encouraged the mentees to explore many other opportunities available in the media industry especially now in the new digital era which has brought with it a lot of advantages for media women.
“We have fear of the unknown and we don’t want to leave our comfort zone,” she said “but the world has opportunities and if you are not moving, you’re blocking those opportunities.”
Ms Mburia reiterated AMWIK’s plan to engage trainees in similar mentorship forums saying “Let us sharpen our skills to empower people and to support each other in this journey of growth as we seek to impact Kenya.” Ms Mburia is a skilled radio journalist with several years of experience under her belt. She has also worked in various communications capacities in international organizations.
The mentors left no table unturned as they shared intimate details of their careers, from sexual harassment in the newsroom to deadly encounters while out covering stories in the field. Mentees also got a rare opportunity to raise their fears and concerns to the mentors.
All the mentors shared the same principles of hard work and courage. Among them was Wanjiku Mbugua who was a Standard Newspaper reporter in the early nineties. Wanjiku referred to journalism as a respectable career which has to be entered with integrity.
Wanjiku expressed the importance of honing sharp writing skills and speaking good English as one of the most important values for journalism, a sentiment that was echoed by Sylvia Mwichuli who started her intriguing media career as a reporter with the Daily Nation Newspaper.
Mwichuli rose to the ranks of a senior political reporter, a position which had very few female journalists at the time. Exuding her passion for journalism, she advised the mentees to reflect on their choices of journalism as a career. “Journalism is not about yourself but about coming up with stories that will change people’s lives,” she said.
In her presentation, Mwichuli recounted to the mentees countless challenges she faced as a reporter in the political field, more so as a young female political journalist.“Nobody respects a woman in the newsroom,” she articulated adding “you earn your respect, and you earn it by working twice as hard.”
Mwichuli also stressed the importance of being bold and having strong principles as a woman journalist. She also encouraged mentees to build strong networks and relationships as they go a long way in establishing a successful career.
This notwithstanding, having upright morals and strong principles remain one of the vital tools necessary for a long-standing career. Rose Lukalo, a former editor with NTV said broadcast journalism was not about the glitz and the glamour that had been portrayed in recent times. “There is so much you can do on screen and on the microphone rather than the glitz and glamour because what is important is not being liked but being respected,” she said.
Toepista Nabusoba, a Producer at the Kenya Broadcasting Corporation (KBC) English Service stressed the importance of internships as a learning place for knowing how to work with people and improving your skills.
“Engage in networks that will build you and find a niche for yourself because your quality of work will speak for you.” Nabusoba also stressed the importance of having a mentor to guide you through your budding career, while mentioning Ms Pamela Mburia as one of her long time mentors.
The forum brought together students from seven institutions including Daystar University, Multimedia University, the University of Nairobi, The United States International University, Kenya Institute of Mass Communications and Moi University among others.
Mentors were drawn from all walks of the media including radio and television production, print media, public relations, media consultancy and publishing.
They included Ms. Nancy Sang the Head of External Relations at the Central Bank of Kenya (CBK) who gave insights on succeeding in corporate communication, Anne Mawathe, Senior Features Reporter at Citizen TV, Rose Lukalo of the Media Policy Research Centre, Angela Kamanzi CEO of Mkazi Online Magazine and Tabitha Onyinge, CEO of Deer Leaps Communications.
The forum was supported by the Ford Foundation and was aimed at enabling female media students to expand their view points on their career and consider new ways of thinking to improve their skills and advance their careers.