Despite a steady increase in the number of female media professionals over the past 20 years, most mainstream media continue to mostly rely on men for tough tasks.
Women in the news continued to dominate in the area of fashion, health, society, while they are practically absent in areas to do with politics, economy, courts, science, data, among others.
Different foot soldiers in the industry who spoke to KT Press said that only a few women have come up to accept the newsroom challenges.
Anne-Marie Niwemwiza, KT Radio journalist who hosts a popular show ‘Ubyumva ute’ said that there are things that maintain women into soft topics.
They include the personality, the social constructs and the media house leaders. “There is a factor of some female journalists who are lazy and don’t want to make an effort; this is on both men and women but because of the little number they only condemn girls and leave behind boys,” she said.
“A survey indicated that the number of female journalists is still smaller. The fewer they are, the more women who cover tough topics will be, and it is remarkable. Despite the little number, there are some women who cover those topics but our society calls them names like ‘Inshinzi’, ‘Inshyanutsi’, ‘Ingare’, etc. and even some see women who talk about sensitive issues as drug addicts.”
According to Niwemwiza, all those are the barriers that women face and make them reluctant to cover matters that would make them look bad in society. Those who try to shine do not care about the shout of the society.
“In some cases, a girl can pitch a story idea but the editors who are men may think that she would pass it to a man to handle. Women are able but sometimes they are not given equal opportunities as men,” she said.
Joseph Hakuzwumuremyi a journalist and owner of Umuryango media house said that women journalists face job challenges as men, but they have their own challenges.
“There are common challenges, journalism is tough and even tougher when it comes to women. Their capacity can be limited by corrupted editors who refuse them some opportunities. Many see them as women more than journalists. Even having a story could be difficult when the source starts seducing them instead of focusing on the issue at hand,” Hakuzwumuremyi said.
“I engage women reporters; I have three for now but they perform well. They cover any topic, I just give them an opportunity to try several fields,” he said, adding that the government should change journalism policy, and girls should be more committed to their job.
Jean Baptiste Karegeya, an analyst and director of renaissanceinfo.rw said that though it is said that women cover those topics that require minimum challenges, it’s not their making.
“Indeed women like soft topics but men are the main cause because they impose a difficult working environment against them; some male sources sexually harass women instead of giving them information as they are requested to. Others are are very aggressive, among other causes that make women frustrated,” he said.
Karegeya said that even some families are a barrier.
“Much of these stories require travel and even spending some days away from home. Their husbands will start complaining. So, the main reasons are men themselves, women’s weaknesses, and society in general; it will take time to educate and change people’s mindset,” Karegeya added.
Different from others, Natacha Kamanzi KT Radio journalist, and the host of Boda to Boda does not believe in soft topic – hard topic thinking.
“First of all, people should understand that political and economic topics are the only ones to be called tough. We have women who go to different fields and cover their stories well. We can not call it soft because the journalist didn’t host a politician,” she said.
Kamanzi added that the job itself is challenging for both genders but women tend to have more challenges because people always want to choose for them.
Latifat Akimana, the Pax Press chairperson and Community Radio (RC) Huye Director, said that they do the best to empower women in journalism but there is still a long way to go.
“We try to train women and to give opportunities but some women are lazy, which is unfortunate. They do not want to learn, read, yet working on such topics requires knowledge and being informed. Being called a journalist is not enough, you should increase your knowledge,” she said.
Akimana said that sometimes she invites women to come and practice, but some of them shy away and say that they are not able.
Pax Press National Coordinator, Albert Baudouin Twizeyimana said that there is hope of changes where women dare to have their own YouTube channels, and websites, which cover even the tough topics.
“There is progress, the number of women who studied journalism and who are doing it is increasing. They should be given opportunities. There is a long way to go but there is hope. As Pax Press, we do our best to promote this inclusiveness,” he said.
Pax Press is a Non-Governmental Organization and a network of 86 journalists working with 31 media housses including 12 radio stations, 10 Newspapers, 3 television stations, and 6 Websites.
It focuses on community-based reporting by training journalists, dispatching them to the field, and facilitating them to collect, process, and publish information through media partners.