African media and female journalists
IN MOST AFRICAN COMMUNITIES, the woman’s place is in the backyard.
In African traditional religion, Islam and even Christianity, she is considered inferior to the man and is expected not to talk in public. This is rationalized by the story of creation, which says the woman was formed from the rib of the man in order to be a helper to him.
If one accepts the "helper" motif, it follows that a "helper" cannot function on equal footing in a man's labor. The woman’s place in the African society is clearly distinct from that of the man in all spheres of life.
Over the years, with modernization and the influx of the Western culture, women are beginning to abandon the domestic world in favor of more public occupations that steadily draw them into more peer-like relationships with men.
This phenomenon has not succeeded in erasing the mentality that women are inferior to men physically, intellectually, spiritually, emotionally, etc. Women who today find themselves in historically male-dominated professions, like journalism, face enormous challenges. This essay aims to identify the main obstacles African women face in the media world and to propose some solutions.
1) Lack of equal opportunity
The patriarchal nature of African society extends right into the newsroom. Male journalists are given pride of place over females, regardless of competence. Most editors retain the outmoded idea that women have a limited intellectual capacity.
In most African newsrooms female journalists do not benefit from the same access to or encouragement to pursue training and career advancement as do their male counterparts. They are hardly ever assigned to career-boosting political or investigative stories, such as coverage of the president or parliament. They are most often assigned to the “less important" beats like gender violence, health and beauty and cooking tips.
The female journalist is regarded by her male employer, editor and counterparts as a woman first, not as a colleague. Women are rarely given the opportunity to prove their competence and if, by accident, they come up with some worthy results, they are accused of having used their “feminine charms” to achieve it.
2) An inhospitable labor code
Most employers of female journalists in Africa do not treat them equally with their male counterparts in terms of regular payment of salary, pay package, maternity leave, social-insurance benefits, etc. And, unfortunately, the legal system has very little to say about this practice. In Cameroon, this is most rampant in the private sector where the employers treat employees according to their whims and caprices.
Some female journalists in the private sector in Cameroon have been forced out of their jobs after they got pregnant and some have been refused maternity leave, while others received only unpaid maternity leaves.
3) Biological differences not taken into account
Women have very complex bodies that warrant extra care compared to the male body. Male journalists can spend the night anywhere and be up and going the next morning without thoroughly cleaning themselves, but that is not possible for women, especially when they are on their monthly periods. This makes it difficult for women to take on certain assignments.