It is a common discouraging sight at Rwanda’s press conferences where among the over 30 journalists present, only two are women.
The issue of empowering women in today’s Media is yet to be solved in order to overcome the gender imbalance witnessed in the country’s Journalism profession.
Jane Kirtley a professor of Media Ethics and Law at the School of Journalism and Mass Communication, University of Minnesota, during her interaction with journalists at the US Embassy, Kigali said a lot has changed in the media since the seventies.
“During my time as a reporter, I had to sacrifice a lot; I got married in my mid-thirties since I had to first establish my career. A lot has changed since our times; currently, women have the opportunity to do what they want without being told what to do,” Kirtley recalls.
She said that although times are changing, the aspect of women having to work twice as much as the men in order to be acknowledged in some workplaces is still a challenge.
“However, some men are supportive of women success. Something that led to their change of mindset in my country was that fathers, husbands and brothers did not want to see their daughters, wives and sisters being discriminated against,” Kirtley said.
Fausta Gisa, presenter at Amazing Grace Christian Radio, says that it’s challenging to be a female journalist in Rwanda.
“The mentality by most people has not changed at all. While collecting information for a news story, some people think that women are not as capable as men,” she said.
She emphasized the fact that a woman has to go an extra mile to convince most sources for information without being doubted.
“It is frustrating to be considered unreliable just because of your sex,” Gisa adds.
The gender imbalance in the journalism profession calls for extreme advocacy and empowerment.
Thoede Niwemutoni, a reporter with a local Kinyarwanda paper Imvaho Nshya explains how out of the 28 students in her journalism class, only four were women.
“During the journalism course that was carried out at the Great Lake Media, a handful of women attended,” Niwemutoni said. “The journalism profession is life changing because it requires individuals to be informed open-minded about most things.”
“I’m happy that with the training and skills I attained, I’m able to interact with different people. Meeting people (celebrities and politicians) you didn’t expect to cross your path is also another benefit that comes with the journalism profession,” Niwemutoni explains.
She encouraged more girls at school to apply for journalism courses in order to practice the profession.
“Let’s use the media to address and advocate for women issues. The only way we can do this, is if there are more women in the journalism profession,” she advises.
The Media High Council’s (MHC) Executive Secretary, Patrice Mulama says the council has tried to empower female journalists.
“Although much has not been done compared to what is in stock, empowering women in media is a gradual process. We supported the Association of Rwandan Female Journalists (ARFEM) in their strategic plan,” Mulama said.
He said that the MHC empowers women through “capacity building”.