Recently, the Association of Rwanda female journalists elected a new president, Egidie Bibio Ingabire, giving her a three-year-term at the helm of the group. Collins Mwai caught up with her for insights on the organisation and their priorities. Excerpts:
As the new president of the body, what will be your priorities in office?
Our priorities this year will be focused on improving the knowledge of women in media, giving them training and giving them chances to be active stakeholders in the industry.
We will also empower them on women affairs so that they can champion for women rights and affairs better.
What does your organisation do anyway?
The main role is to get together and build the capacity of women in their journalism practices and their everyday roles at work. We get together to empower each other to improve our practices. We look out for each other.
Why did the organisation take a women only structure and what do you tackle that cannot be addressed in the presence of men?
Together as women there are things that we can exchange and tackle that would not have been possible in a set up comprised of men. We share our experiences which is easier in a women only group.
What is the place of women in media? How far have they come?
Women in media have generally come a long way. Years ago, it is safe to say that there wasn’t self confidence in women in media. There were very few women, if any, leading media houses or working in top positions unlike now when we have some women acting as chief editors. But with the help of partners, their capacities have been improved and they play bigger roles. We have testimonies of women giving accounts of how far they have come over the years. We still have a long way to see more women occupy more leadership positions in media houses.
What holds back women in media?
Amongst the most persistent challenges are perceptions of women in their newsrooms. Women are looked at as weak and inferior. Women are not assigned some tasks thinking that they are probably afraid or cannot withstand conditions. They think there are places women cannot go.
These are some of the things we would like to change in our society. We would like women to be seen as capable to perform tasks men can.
There is also a tendency to prefer to recruit men as opposed to women in most media houses. That is why we are encouraging women to prove themselves.
No offence but truth be told, there are conditions I can stand in the field that you wouldn’t get through, say for instance, reporting from a volatile Goma (Eastern Congo) and requiring you to skip a shower or two? Women are as capable as men.
At the end of your three years in office, what yardsticks will you use to evaluate yourself?
At the end of my term I want to see women with improved skills and their welfare better. We also plan to roll out campaigns championing for the welfare of women in general to contribute to development.
I wish to work closely with the government, donors, journalists and also our male counterparts in the media industry.
To address the challenges you say you face, you might have to reach out to up and coming journalists. Do you have any such plans?
We have programmes where we visit secondary schools and universities where we encourage women to pursue journalism. We also reach out to upcoming journalists and female media professionals to encourage them. We plan to continue with the programme.
Beyond being the president of the association, who are you?
I am a married mother of two girls. I worked with Radio Salus while still a student and later at the National Parliament Radio station which later became part of RBA- radio Rwanda Inteko (Rwanda Broadcasting Agency). I am currently the chief editor at the station. I have done a few programmes on RTV too.
I studied journalism and communication in the National university of Rwanda, at Butare campus.
What’s the one thing you wish every female journalist knew?
Have self-confidence and show them what you are capable of.