The women Journalist Association of The Gambia (WoJAG) joins voices around the world to mark this year’s International Women’s Day (IWD 2023) under the theme “𝐃𝐢𝐠𝐢𝐭𝐀𝐋𝐋: 𝐈𝐧𝐧𝐨𝐯𝐚𝐭𝐢𝐨𝐧 𝐚𝐧𝐝 𝐭𝐞𝐜𝐡𝐧𝐨𝐥𝐨𝐠𝐲 𝐟𝐨𝐫 𝐠𝐞𝐧𝐝𝐞𝐫 𝐞𝐪𝐮𝐚𝐥𝐢𝐭𝐲”.
While the theme is putting spotlight on women and girls who are championing the advancement of transformative technology and digital education, WoJAG believes it’s important to highlight the gender inequalities that exist in the Gambian media.
The media in The Gambia is operating in a patriarchal society with unequal power relations between men and women which put women at the lowest rungs of the socio-economic ladder and render them vulnerable to different forms of rights violation.
While women journalist play pivotal roles in the development of the Gambian media, working as reporters, presenters, editors, producers, technicians, managers and media proprietors, they continue to face challenges such as; gender inequality, sexual harassment, low pay amongst others in media houses across the country.
A study on the Working Conditions of Media Workers in The Gambia conducted by the Gambia Press Union in 2020, shows that 37% of media workers are female. While this shows that the media is largely dominated by men, the report also shows that significant gaps exist when conditions for both men and women are compared at all levels, especially in terms of pay, positions held, and treatment.
It’s important to note that many women journalist have acquired the necessary knowledge and skills over the past years which shows that there isn’t a lack of knowledge and skills among women journalists. Yet, editorial boards and decision-making positions in newsrooms continue to be mainly dominated by men.
𝐁𝐚𝐧𝐧𝐚 𝐒𝐚𝐛𝐚𝐥𝐥𝐲, 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐒𝐞𝐜𝐫𝐞𝐭𝐚𝐫𝐲 𝐆𝐞𝐧𝐞𝐫𝐚𝐥 of WoJAG said for gender inequality to be mitigated in the media, women should also be ready to push extra hard to get promotions like their male counterparts.
“It’s visible that many women are joining the journalism field but the fact remains the higher you go the fewer women you find in media houses and this is because of the gender discrimination that exist in the media. “It’s like women have to proof themselves over and over again to be accepted or seen capable and this is not the case with men, that’s sad” she said.
She called on media owners and managers to embrace equality by ensuring women in the media are promoted and empowered like they do with the opposite gender. “True inclusion and belonging requires equitable action in all aspects” she added.
Aside discrimination, Women in the media are faced with Sexual Harassment. A research by the Gambia Press Union reveals that 22% of the respondents have heard rumours of Sexual Harassment in the workplace, 40% of this have heard it more than twice, 23.9% are aware of someone being sexually harassed and 13.7% have had personal experience of sexual harassment.
𝐖𝐨𝐉𝐀𝐆 𝐏𝐫𝐞𝐬𝐢𝐝𝐞𝐧𝐭 𝐀𝐧𝐧𝐞𝐭𝐭𝐞 𝐂𝐚𝐦𝐚𝐫𝐚 said “mitigating sexual harassment is one the major issues the women journalist association of the Gambia is working on addressing. I call on women journalist to be assertive but also to work on improving themselves both professionally and academically so as to avoid men taking advantage of their vulnerability”
While wishing all women media workers a happy Women’s Day, WoJAG calls on all media employers to renew their commitment to ensuring gender equality, by:
• Improving working conditions for women Journalists by ensuring they are accorded fair treatment in the workplace;
• Complying with local and international labour standards by ensuring media workers are hired based on written employment contracts, are adequately paid, and all benefits due to them, including health, further education/training, social security are met;
• Appointing and promoting more women in decision-making positions in newsrooms and other key management positions in media houses;
• Adopting the GPU Sexual Harassment Policy as a guide to ensure a safe and conducive work environment for women journalists and all female media workers.