The Executive Director of the Association of Media Women in Kenya, Ms Marceline Nyambala, has lauded the increase in the number of women vying for elective positions in the forthcoming August 8, 2017 General Election as a step in the right direction, but said a lot more remains to be done.
Speaking recently at Oxfam offices in Nairobi during a media breakfast to evaluate the coverage of women aspirants, Ms Nyambala said political parties would have to nominate more women to boost their numbers.
From 17 political parties, Ms Nyambala said 316 women have been nominated for the positions of woman representatives, 10 for gubernatorial seats, 114 for Members of Parliament and 26 are in the race for Senate positions.
Oxfam’s Elizabeth Mueni wondered why women aspirants received less media coverage during the recently held parties’ primaries that were largely symbolic. The general view was that women leaders tend to confine themselves to feminine issues, which were overshadowed by those of national importance.
Women aspirants were advised not to shy away from the media but to recognise the importance of a communication team and set aside a budget for the same. They were also told that the media was vital in articulating their development agenda.
Women in the media and communication fields need to be bold and outrageous in order to succeed.
“Your destiny is in your hands. You need to push the envelope and ensure that your organisation knows your value. You should not be forgotten wherever you work,”Communication specialist Sylvia Mwichuli said while giving a motivational talk at AMWIK.
Ms Mwichuli started her journalism career in the early 1990’s at the Kenya Times and later moved to the Daily Nation at a time when there were very few female reporters in the male-dominated field. Against all odds, she broke the glass ceiling by becoming a pioneer female parliamentary reporter.
“We were only two female reporters on the Nation news desk. My boss was very reluctant when I asked for the position of a parliamentary reporter. He said there were no toilets for female reporters at Parliament Buildings, but I stood my ground and he gave in with reservations,” she said.
Ms Mwichuli also played a key role during the clamour for the repeal of Section 2A of the Kenya Constitution. As a reporter for the Daily Nation, she again blazed the trail as the first Kenyan female journalist to cover the riots that rocked the city as the ”Young Turks” took to the streets to agitate for change on the political landscape. Eventually, the then president Daniel arap Moi bowed to pressure and repealed the law, which ushered in multi-party politics in Kenya in 1992.
Ms Mwichuli, who has a wealth of experience in journalism, communications, knowledge management and advocacy spanning over 18 years, urged women in the media and communications to work at building a reputation of integrity without compromising on their principles. She also stressed that they need to analyse their skills gaps and invest in proper planning, monitoring and evaluation as well as ensuring they keep a record of their work.
Communication, she noted, must have a strategic role in an organisation which requires the right level of investment.“One needs to be innovative when choosing tools of communication. Campaigns, for instance, are a very effective method of driving a message home,” she added.
To be effective and successful communicator, “you must have great ideas, which would enhance your relevance in the organisation. The ideas are money and they should be patented,” Ms Mwichuli said, noting that she had made costly blunders in her career by sharing some of her great ideas, which were “stolen”. She added, though, that it is important to learn from mistakes.
She further stressed the need for women in the media and communication to have mentors and warned against making hasty decisions such as quitting a job in a huff without a safety net.
Ms Mwichuli has worked for, among other organisations, the Daily Nation and the Standard, AMREF, Action Aid, Kenya Pipeline and as the Communications and Public Affairs Director at Alliance for Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA). She is currently a consultant.
AMWIK chairperson Pamela Mburia thanked Ms Mwichuli for sharing her motivational professional journey. She urged members to use the lessons and experiences to scale the heights of their careers.