Madam Nadia Ahmed, Chief Administrative Secretary, Ministry of ICT, Innovation & Youth Affairs
Madam Rachel Shebesh, Chief Administrative Secretary, Ministry of Public Service, Gender, Senior Citizens Affairs and Special Programmes
Your Excellency Amb. Henriette Geiger, Ambassador of the European Union Delegation to Kenya,
Madam Memory Kachambwa – Executive Director, FEMNET,
Mr David Omwoyo, Chief Executive Officer, Media Council of Kenya,
Mr Sammy Muraya Project Manager- Journalists for Human Rights,
Madam Jane Godia: Director-Africa, Women in News -WAN-IFRA,
Madam Bettina Ambach, Director – Wayamo Foundation,
My boss, Dr. Jane Thuo -The chairperson of the AMWIK Board of Directors
Distinguished guests and delegates, A very good morning to you!
What a happy day to be alive – to mark a whole forty years since the birth of this great network of women in the media. We are here to honour the founders of the Association of Media Women in Kenya (AMWIK). We must celebrate the clarity of their vision to make a way for future journalists. We are that future that the AMWIK pioneers imagined in 1982. If you think about it, back then, the newsrooms in Kenya were not made for women. It was a world designed by—and for— men. The voices of women were muted. Women journalists, broadcasters, news sources, and even experts were few. It was a brave time to come up with such a bold initiative.
In that forty-year journey, they managed to push for reasonable policies to make the newsroom habitable for women. They got in and worked twice as hard as their male colleagues, including getting into the rough and tumble of political and investigative reporting. They laid a solid foundation, and provided a platform to amplify voices of women.
In our panel this morning, we heard the history of AMWIK. It reminded me of the other stories that have been told of great women who have changed the course of our history. Those who came before us have given us the privilege of standing on their shoulders – they are the giants and pillars who carried the heavy weight for us.
We honor them today and promise that their efforts were not in vain. We picked from where they left and we are proud that though their dreams have not fully been realized, we are on the right track. From winning awards and disrupting myths in the management structure of newsrooms, to achieving what our founders could only dream of, we have made remarkable progress. We are seasoned journalists, media managers, media owners, editors, independent content producers and many more and we still continue to soar and make impact in diverse ways.
Today we salute the AMWIK founders, our past and present partners, my predecessors, former and current board members who have loyally served the Association over the years. At this crowning moment, I speak with pride of the work we have done so far. I first thank everyone for the support my team and I have received since my appointment in August last year.
To our members who are now over 300 today, I sincerely thank you for believing in the leadership of AMWIK and trusting us to lead and coordinate the association. Our strength is in the value our members because without you THERE is no AMWIK. We have made reforms to manage the membership by ensuring each member enjoys the benefits of belonging to AMWIK.
Through the implementation of our projects, we have provided opportunities. Last year alone over 200 members benefited from receiving story grants, as consultants, trainers, moderators, rapporteurs, social media moderators, researchers, trainees, mentees and mentors and many others all geared towards building our skills, our knowledge and using our strength in the media to contribute to a better society that recognizes equality and respects human rights.
We are intentional in utilizing opportunities created by the new media to talk about our work, diversify our opportunities and increase our engagement with stakeholders. The results are evident in the increased registration of new members and renewals in the past five months.
We are aware that the environment we operate in has greatly changed – from high competition to shrinking donor funding. We have found it important to rethink our strategies, diversify and conform to innovative approaches to remain afloat, relevant and ensure sustainability.
Of course, we cannot achieve this without the support of our valued partners. We have implemented diverse projects useful to the social, economic and political spheres of our society.
The launch of a handbook on Digital Safety and Security for example, is one of the resources we have developed in partnership with Duetsche Welle Akademie to address emerging issues brought by technological advancements. Our entry into reporting on food security and advocating for food rights through the Route to Food Initiative is another avenue AMWIK explored to develop a handbook on reporting on Agroecology.
With our partners such as the African Women’s Development Fund, we were not only able to receive institutional capacity support but also initiate programmes to empower and support women and journalists affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. Urgent Action Africa and FEMNET under the Stitch Programme made it possible for us to approach the 16 days of activism with a call to the duty bearers to respond to the crisis of Gender-based violence by clearing the way for justice and accountability. The Media Council of Kenya, apart from supporting our secretariat and the board is also our valued partner especially in training journalists.
And I have to give a special mention to the European Union delegation in Kenya for the great support, fruitful networks and the constant links with our partners that continue to benefit AMWIK.
Today we are also pleased to announce the commencement of a new project, “Enhancing The Capacity of Community Media Houses to Promote the Safety of Journalists in The Work Place” in partnership with UNESCO under the International Programme for the Development of Communication – IPDC.
Allow me to appreciate these and many other of our partners not mentioned today. It is important for me to mention that the biggest challenge for an association like AMWIK is capacity support because most of the donor funds are specific only to implementation of projects and not to support the institution that is implementing the project. Because of this, AMWIK has introduced a service charge to help the secretariat operate effectively. We therefore, appeal to our partners, to help us address this challenge.
AMWIK is committed to advocate for freedom of the media, promote professionalism and address issues affecting the industry by promoting a safe working environment. Our greatest concern is the safety and the place of women in the media. The number of women at the decision-making table in the media is below 30 percent. We have a high number of female journalists leaving prematurely and many others being discriminated against because they are women.
According to research released by WAN-IFRA in January this year, it is shocking that the Kenyan media is leading in sexual harassment in Africa at 56 per cent.
AMWIK is leading the Kenya Media Sector Working Group in efforts to address sexual harassment in the industry. Last year, in partnership with Journalists for Human Rights- Voice for Women and Girls’ Rights, AMWIK launched an ad hoc committee and a model policy to be adopted by media organizations. The committee proposed setting up a rapid-response team that will provide a reporting and redress mechanism for sexual harassment in the media in Kenya.
Through our partner FEMNET, AMWIK has implemented the men-to-men engagement programme to establish a network of male champions leading the war against sexual harassment in the media. In the same breadth, ARTICLE 19 has supported the ad hoc committee to develop a one-year work plan and supported the training of members of the committee on media and monitoring in preparation for the work ahead. To our partner and sister, Women in News – WAN-IFRA, we thank you for walking this journey with AMWIK and also for coming through in a big way especially your support during this 40th anniversary.
To ensure our association is anchored on strong pillars, today we will witness the launch of AMWIK’s new Constitution and Strategic Plan 2021-2026. These documents have been developed with invaluable input and support of our partner – FEMNET. We thank our members and our consultants for being part of this process.
As they say life begins at 40! AMWIK is starting this stair on a high note. We have a new brand identity to articulate our aspirations for the future and bring a new sense of freshness. To blend into this is also our new website.
We hope that this refined version of us will give our stakeholders an interaction that will spur a renewed sense of pride and impact.
However, even as we continue with such initiatives, the call is on the young journalists. We want to build a strong battalion of competent scribes who will find inspiration from our history and competently earn their positions.
We want the younger generation to build up from where we have come and to understand that it takes more than simply dreaming, hoping and wishing – To know that integrity, character and hard work are the foundations of excellence in journalism.
Today’s technology has given people the power to not only connect and express themselves but also use their journalistic skills to earn a living. AMWIK has been involved in advancing free expression and media freedom and our collective voices will continue to empower not just women in the mass media industry, but even those working in the new media platforms.
Looking at the future, we seek to step out as a leader in convening and shaping media sector initiatives that seek to address the current challenges in society while elevating the capacity of women as industry thought leaders and shaping the gender agenda.
This being an election year and in the spirit of defending our democracy, we appeal for a level playing ground that promotes equal participation of men and women and in a violence free environment.
Thank you and may God bless you, and may God also bless AMWIK!