Aimed at empowering female reporters with the skills, finesse, support and tools to take bold steps that will help position them for the highest leadership roles in their media houses, the Female Reporters’ Leadership Programme (FRLP) is implemented by the Wole Soyinka Centre for Investigative Journalism, with the support of Free Press Unlimited.
The first cohort of fellows produced by the programme were required to carry out individual leadership and story projects based on the knowledge they gathered from the training. Read on as we capture the difference the Fellows went on to make in the newsroom and beyond with their leadership projects.
Aware of the multiple challenges and responsibilities female journalists grapple with on daily basis, Ene Osang, set out to train female interns and journalists in the Abuja office of Blueprint Newspaper, the media house where she works, on female journalists survival tips.
Ene organised a mini workshop on 10 November 2017 in the newsroom. The field nature of journalists’ work notwithstanding, 5 female journalists and 2 interns attended. Pretty enough, her Editor-in-Chief, Hajiya Zainab Suleiman Okino and the Deputy Weekend Editor, Hajiya Hauwa Gambo, both females, were the resource persons for the workshop.
The workshop availed the participants the opportunity to hear the editor-in-chief and the weekend editor share the challenges they faced on the job and how they rose from being reporters, to occupying their top offices.
Following the workshop, Ene observed that female journalists in her media house were more ready to help one another, especially the interns, to grow on the job. She said, “I was able to establish a bond among the female reporters. As a matter of fact, some even show me their reports to ensure they were balanced enough before sending to various editors for publication. I am very thankful and grateful to WSCIJ for using me as a tool to achieve this in my office.”
Ene has committed herself to organising more workshops and involve journalists from other media houses.
Ifeoma Okeke, is the Head, Aviation Desk at BusinessDay Newspaper. She felt concerned that interns posted to her media organisation learn so little before returning to school, so she took up a female intern to train on how to write news and feature stories on the aviation sector, aside starting a quarterly staff training in October.
She also organised a training for members of staff. “I brought together over 35 staff of BusinessDay to attend the training. I also involved the intern who was working with me for seven weeks to ensure she learns the practical aspect of mass communication,” Ifeoma disclosed.
Demonstrating the impacts of her efforts, Ifeoma remarked that the intern held the fort for her and did an excellent work, writing good news and feature stories, while she (Ifeoma) was out of the country.
The intern identified simply as Eleanya, explained how the changes took place:
“She (Ifeoma) would always instruct me to go read through the papers on every aviation story, to get equipped on what the beat is all about and how BusinessDay stories are written. She always wanted me to attend events and learn new things.”
Following the training, staff of BusinessDay developed better understanding of the aviation sector, paving way for collaborative reporting with other desks, such as Technology and Metro, thereby allowing them advance solutions to issues in the aviation sector.
In order to sustain the impact, Ifeoma would be organising the training session on a quarterly basis. She also had requested that the editor give her more female interns to train.
Ayodele Olofintuade discovered that many young girls are ignorant of their rights and this makes them easy targets of abuses. Ayodele therefore opted to mentor 11 female students from Olunde Community Secondary School, Ibadan, on child rights, sexual abuse and child protection as enshrined in the Nigerian Constitution. Assisted by two resource persons, one of which is a teacher in the school, Ayodele also exposed the students to career education, with particular focus on journalism and writing. The group met for 45 minutes on Tuesday.
According to her, “The mentees have expanded their knowledge about their rights and have gained more confidence. Their use of English Language in writing is also improving, and they have become regular users of the library that 9jafeminista (her blog) was able to provide.”
She hopes to continue the programme next term (second term) with another batch of 19 students, bringing the total to 30. The first and second batches would then be trained together as peer educators in third term, after which the design would be taken to another school entirely.
Having undergone the FRLP training, Faith Yahaya, a reporter with the Abuja Bureau of The Nation Newspaper said she realised that leaders are meant to identify problems and then solve them. This realisation was the birthing of several journalism-related solutions for Faith.
First, Faith noticed that older Editorial staffs in her organisation experienced much difficulty in filing their reports electronically. She took them through the use of social media such as twitter and Text Fairy, thereby making the report filing process much easier.
As she could not keep the benefits of the WSCIJ training to herself alone, she organised a step-down training for about 10 female journalists in and outside her media house, to share the FRLP lesson learned. The training focused on how female journalists can thrive in the male dominated profession.
According to Faith, “With the social media training, the older editorial staff now do their jobs faster; they are able to share the links of their stories and columns with friends from the newspaper’s website. This increased the traffic to our website.”
The step-down training has also brought the female journalists closer, in the anticipation that excellence would be promoted among them.
From her pinnacle as an editor with Daily Trust Newspaper, Amina Alhassan was concerned that the interns with her media outfit were merely warming the seats and not profitably engaged. In response, she decided to focus her leadership project on training the interns.
She allotted two hours to train the interns three times per week for one month. Although, it was not convenient, given that other tasks begged for her attention, she went to field with the interns. She also taught the interns to think about story ideas on their own and discuss same with her or the head of other desks. Amina was able to bring other editors to also encourage the interns about the profession.
Following the intervention, many of the interns have identified and discussed good story ideas and pitches with the head of various desks in Daily Trust Newspaper.
“The project has been approved to be handled by me for every intern; so, it is a continuous project. Kudos to Wole Soyinka Centre for Investigative Journalism for making this happen.”Amina said.
Turned down several times by media houses, many female journalism job seekers have lost the courage to stand by their passion in journalism. Nafisat Abdulkarim, an independent journalist made a move to bridge the gap for freelance female reporter, through her leadership project.
Spanning a period of two months, Nafisat worked with six female master’s students of Mass Communication in Bayero University, Kano. The students love to work in the media, but have no previous experience, which was always required of them whenever they applied for jobs.
Following the training, Nafisat said, “I was able to inspire the six students to sustain their passion for journalism regardless of past disappointments. I guided the students to report issues along their areas of interest and then send to media organisations as freelance reports. Together with them, I also started “girlmentors”, an initiative seeking to mentor young school girls who aspire to become journalists.”
Eager to share some of the lessons learned at the training, Nafisat also went on to organise a step-down training of female reporters. 10 media organisations in Kano were represented. The training bordered on strengthening female reporters’ participation in the newsroom and creation of a support and inspiration network for women reporters and students. Some female lecturers in the Faculty of Communications, Bayero University, Kano helped paint the picture of the situation of women in Northern Nigeria newsroom, through their past research efforts.
As a crime editor with The New Telegraph Juliana Francis is not unaware of the alarming increase in the number of youths going into crime. Worried that many youths go into crime without knowing the full implication on their future, she committed herself to educate the youth on the effects on their lives and the society.
For two months, she coordinated some fora to speak directly with the youth. During the period, she met with undergraduate and postgraduate students interning in the media house where she works every Tuesday morning. She also went to a secondary school in Mile 12, Lagos, on Fridays to speak with the students. Juliana brought in other resource persons, who have come face-to-face with crime— an ex-convict turned pastor, an EFCC official, as well as three staff of her organisation to join her. They spoke about the difficult life in prison, as well as EFCC’s war against cyber crime.
However, Juliana was not the conventional type, she made use of a combination of methods to achieve the end. In her words:
“I created a blog, youthslens.com, where issues on youth crimes are x-rayed. The blog comes with a newsletter, so that whenever I shared a particular article on youths, it goes to different subscribers. I also created a Facebook page, where I share some of articles on youths. I also printed hard copies of the Youthslens Newsletter, for distribution to youths without access to the social media.”
Revealing that her efforts are yielding results, Juliana disclosed that one of the interns, Joan Yakubu, has become a facilitator, as she spoke against youth crimes before a class of over 70 secondary school students. Also, some of the secondary school student-participants are making and sharing videos to address the dangers of youth crimes. She further revealed that other schools are beginning to invite her.
In love with the project, JuIiana said, “The project has come to stay. I have resolved to continue with my interactive sessions with the interns in my office. I shall also seek other schools to visit. I shall continue to feed youthslen.com with stories on youth crimes, while I continue to share the electronic newsletters.”
Brought to the consciousness of the gender imbalance in the media, following the Female Reporters’ Leadership Programme, Godiya Daniel of NTA Yola took it upon herself to encourage female participation and involvement in newsroom leadership.
Her leadership project had the broad scope of mentoring prospective female leaders in the newsroom, addressing the issue of gender mainstreaming in news reportage and channelling the course of women in the society. She mentored eleven female interns in her station for over two months.
Godiya said, “I involved my senior colleagues, my head of department, as well as the only female management staff in my station. Their contributions added value because all they talked about was purely from experience. The interns became more confident as a result.”
Godiya, who said some of the interns wished they were not going back to school, plans to continue mentoring the interns, through a Whatsapp group she has created. She also plans to involve newsroom staff in the training, as top officers in her broadcasting station advised.
Following the three-day training Olufunke Fayemi, a radio broadcaster with Voice of Nigeria (VON), realised that many female journalists in her organisation are complacent on the job. Now orientated to lead the way for other journalists, she organised a five-week leadership training for female journalists in her organisation. The training entitled, ‘Female Journalistic Boost’, drew participants from the various departments of Voice of Nigeria, bearing in mind the ethnicity of the participants.
Two resource persons: a mentor, Mr. Lekan Otufodunrin and the Deputy Director, Digital Media in Voice of Nigeria, Mrs. Yinka Atolagbe handled the training, which sought to bring the participants from their comfort zone and inspire them to strive to be the best on the job, by discussing how to overcome the various challenges women journalists face, as well as writing for the web.
According to Olufunke, “Many put in for award entries— Nigeria Media Merit Awards and Wole Soyinka Award for Investigative Reporting thereafter. VON hardly participate in such things. Every participant have at least a new or existing ideas they are working on— for some it’s a blog.” Olufukke has decided to make the training a continuous one, she said, “Already, I have ladies wanting to come for the class early next year.”
Nkechi Isaac of Leadership Newspaper committed herself to producing and disseminating Woman 360o, an online newsletter that focuses on women issues. With Woman 360o, Nkechi sensitises female reporters and women in general about women rights and privileges, so that they can contribute their quota to the development of their homes and the society, without fear. The newsletter also helps women navigate through the peculiar challenges they are faced with on daily basis.
Thrilled that she was receiving feedbacks from readers, Nkechi said, “I observed from the responses I got that women are interested in issues of fertility and how to tackle unwanted attention. I plan to go on with my online campaign, by writing and posting more women-related issues.”
As crucial as the time of internship is, it is wasted for most students. Abosede Omoruyi, dared to ensure a productive stay for the interns in her Core TV milieu. She sought to integrate interns and youth corps members in her workplace as active participants in the newsroom, by making them contribute daily to newsgathering. Among other things, she made them tweet at least two informative pieces every day, and post stories on Core Hub, Core TV’s Facebook page.
Assisted by six media resource persons, Abosede gathered the interns on Mondays, or any other agreed day of the week, for two months. The training covered most of the topics taught during the training, as well as using professional camera for journalistic work.
In her words: “Some of the interns who were not familiar with Twitter became considerably active on the platform. The interns returned to school better journalists – one was recently appointed into the editorial team of her institution’s radio station. I am glad that the Core TV’s internship policy is cooking and will soon be birthed. The policy document will help make internship experience better for students posted to our organisation.”
As if they were formally orientated to do so, interns in the Adamawa-based television station, ATV Yola, are seen, but not heard in the newsroom. They appear to be left to themselves. Maria Albert Zirra, a reporter with the station, focused on addressing this and many more with her leadership project.
Maria organised a roundtable on 26 October, 2017 for the budding journalists, to initiate them into the practice of journalism, clear their doubts about the profession, heighten their confidence level, and make them gender sensitive in their reportage. The Adamawa State chairman, Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ); the Chairperson, Nigeria Association of Women Journalists (NAWOJ); the only female editor in ATV Yola; and a few other senior reporters were the resource persons.
Talking of what difference the roundtable has made, Maria said, “It built cordial relationship between the interns and staff of the Corporation. Again, it made the interns become conversant with how things are done in the newsroom. It also made them more comfortable in the newsroom.”
Maria hopes to check on the interns from time to time, even when they resume school, in order to sustain the impacts.
“For almost a decade that I have worked in the radio house, I have seen students come in for internship; and instead of being engaged, most of them become errand girls or sit around and do nothing”, says Bunmi Yekini, one of the fellows.
“I have had cause to interact with some of them, and I realised that they are willing to learn”, she added.
Based on Bunmi’s discovery about the interns in her Radio One, 103.5 FM workplace, she targeted her leadership project, IMPAKTPROJEKT for Young Female Journos, at mentoring the female interns. The project sought among others things, to build their self esteem and confidence, disabuse their minds on the notion that women cannot climb the success ladder in the profession unless they sexually get involved with their male bosses, and help them understand news stories from the point of gender sensitivity.
Bunmi was not alone on the project. She involved two FRLP mentors and directors at her office, Mr. Lekan Otunfodurin and Ms. Nneka Okekearu; the Deputy Director News and Current Affairs, Mrs. Ahmed Sherifat; the General Manager, Bond FM, Ms. Nike Adegoke; the Controller News, Mr. Abiola Peters; and another fellow, Ms. Funke Fayemi of Voice of Nigeria.
Following her leadership project, which spanned two months, the interns had begun writing women related news stories and were more eager to take up new tasks. Two of them who had returned to school started a small female group.
Bunmi would continue to reach out to the interns, many of which are back in school, through a Whatsapp group they have launched.
Realising from the pilot exposure of the Female Reporters’ Leadership Programme, that the Nigerian media is not also gender balanced, Evelyn Okakwu, a Judiciary Correspondent with Premium Times, chose to heed the call to challenge the norm, beginning from her media house.
Evelyn consulted with her publisher and managing editor, to advocate conscious increase in women’s voices in news stories, as well as the inclusion of more women in the media house’s management. She also conducted a step-down training for other reporters.
Talking of the difference her project has made in Premium Times, Evelyn said, “Premium Times has employed a new female management staff and promised to do more. My colleagues have become more aware of the place of women’s voices in their stories, aside writing stories which mainly target women.”