Women are severely underrepresented in newsrooms and other areas of the media industry in Rwanda, an issue that has remained enigmatic to all stakeholders involved.
This subject was top of agenda at a conference on gender equality and women empowerment in the media sector that was held Tuesday.
The conference was organised by ARFEM (the Association of Rwandan Female Journalists) with support from United Nations Development Programme and Media High Council.
Different discussions at the meeting centred on gender gaps within the media, how to build strong women’s voice in media content, among others.
A recent study by Media High Council shows that there are over 34 radio stations in the country but all were established by men and mostly managed by men, with only two women with top managerial roles at these radio stations.
This is the same with TV stations which are 14 and were all established and are managed by men.
Peacemaker Mbungiramihigo, the Executive Secretary of Media High Council, said that even though more women are involved in the wider communication sector, few have gained positions at the decision making level, on governing boards and bodies that implement and influence media policies.
With this, he pointed out that there is need to seek ways to make greater push for the advancement of women in the media sector.
Mbungiramihigo pointed out factors such as mind-set, fear and culture that tend to hold back women from making it to the top echelons of the industry.
“This important forum aims at sensitising media owners, managers, and other stakeholders to be more aware about gender equality; this will help address the existing gender gaps. We need to develop action plans with roles and responsibilities and guidelines for implementation,” he said.
Emmanuel Mugisha, the Executive Secretary of Rwanda Media Commission, said that it has an implication for women in general not to have a voice or proper representation in the media.
This is about information and women voices that are underrepresented yet our mission is to inform the public with all means of diversity, he said.
Mugisha also noted that male domination is one of the reasons why women are still few in the industry. Women need female role models to look up to, he added.
The dominance of men in the sector has implications; certain stereotypes hence need to be and this includes thinking that men are the right people to get information from, he said.
He called on women to fight for their rights but, most importantly, assume key.
“It is up to us to take action to see this change, however women should exercise their right, they should utilise the platform.”
Women, a cornerstone of prosperity
Stephen Rodrigues the President Representative of United Nations Development Programme, said that societies in which all people enjoy equal rights and opportunities have a much higher prospect of achieving social and economic development and improving the welfare of their citizens.
“Women are a cornerstone of prosperity of society as a whole. They have always played a powerful and important role in the development of not just the family but communities and society as a whole,” he said.
“When societies are inclusive they do better in development, this conference, therefore gives us a platform; it is a celebration of the very important role that women play in the media sector. We need to stop and assess what may be going wrong in the media sector,” Rodrigues said.
With this, he stressed the need for an action plan and appealed to male media owners and managers to be champions for this cause.
“I want you to be ‘HeforShe’ champions, I want you to understand the realities of women, to be in their shoes and seek to be agents of change.”
Anne Marie Niwemwiza, a journalist and member of ARFEM, said women need a bigger platform, especially with leadership positions. She, however, noted that for this to happen women need to step out of their comfort zone and take on more challenging tasks.
“We appreciate where women are but more needs to be done. Though the government has put in place policies, managers in media houses have a role to play because the environment in media outlets has a big part to play in how this turns out,” she said.