The Association of Media Women in Kenya (AMWIK) is pleased to announce the commencement of a project dubbed “Enhancing the Capacity of Community Media Houses to Promote the Safety of Journalists in The Workplace” in partnership with and with the support of UNESCO under the International Programme for the Development of Communication (IPDC).
IPDC is a multilateral forum in the UN system designed to mobilize the international community to discuss and promote media development in developing countries. The Programme not only provides support for media projects but also seeks an accord to secure a healthy environment for the growth of free and pluralistic media in developing countries. This pluralism will increase female journalists participation and increase women’s voices in the forthcoming General Election.
During the project, over 60 women journalists in community media outlets including those in the digital space will benefit from training designed to empower them with knowledge and skills on their safety. According to research released in February this year by the World Association of News Publishers – Women in News, out of the 20 countries under study journalists in Kenya have the highest rates of sexual harassment at 56%. Sadly, the majority still do not report the cases due to inadequate anti-sexual harassment policies to protect them and their work.
Various bodies of research further reveal that whereas bigger media organizations have the policies in place, they lack reliable reporting and redress mechanisms making it difficult for victims to report sexual harassment. For community media houses, it is even worse because the majority do not have anti-sexual harassment policies. Their management structures have no accountability structures and have one center of authority, where managers or media owners solely oversee the entire management giving them the power to hire and fire at their own will. This power in most cases has been used to solicit sexual favours in exchange for jobs, internships, or coverage of high-level stories. Sexual harassment is one of the major reasons forcing women journalists to leave newsrooms prematurely, with a ripple effect of having fewer women rising to the decision-making level in newsrooms.
AMWIK further recognizes the unique challenges women journalists face because of their gender. According to the Media Council of Kenya (MCK), 60% of journalists covering the 2022 Kenyan General Election have never covered an election before. Moreover, the majority of them are women mainly from community media organizations who have not been trained and prepared to deal with violence and harassment in the line of duty. This project is also in response to Election Reporting Guidelines 2022 by MCK, which emphasizes the safety of female journalists during elections. Community media managers are not well prepared to cover elections and are not sending female journalists to cover elections due to violence. Therefore, by strengthening the coping mechanisms of female journalists, this project will provide an opportunity to empower community media journalists with safety tips when covering the upcoming elections.
The project in partnership with IPDC will further provide an opportunity to increase awareness among the community media outlets on sexual harassment. This will help improve reporting of cases, offer survivors a voice and space for solidarity, offer the opportunity for male engagement and enlist the support of male champions and cultivate a conducive environment for the enactment of anti-sexual harassment policies to be implemented by community media organizations.
Last year, AMWIK under the Kenya Media Sector Working Group (KMSWG) launched a model anti-sexual harassment policy, which will be an important document during the training. It will also be a chance to also urge media houses to adopt it to suit their structure. This project will be implemented in selected media organizations in Nairobi, Kiambu, Mombasa, Kisii, Homa Bay, Nyeri, Kakamega, Nyamira, Garissa, and Meru counties starting May this year.
By Denis Mbau, Communications Manager