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Sexual harassment driving women out of the newsroom

Sexual harassment in the workplace remains a big challenge for female journalists in Uganda. However, most women affected by it are silent about the vice.

According to a 2021 study by WAN-IFRA Women in News and City, University of London, almost half of the women in newsrooms in Africa have experienced some form of sexual harassment, yet 30 per cent of sexual harassment cases were reported to management.

Fear of reprisals is the most common driver behind the limited reporting. The study also found that a lack of faith in organisations’ management and awareness of reporting systems also plays a part in this.

Speaking at the inaugural Women in News Uganda alumni conference in Kampala on Friday, 10 February, Lydia Namono Wesonga, the assistant editor of business at Nation Media Group Uganda, said sexual harassment has caused the loss of many promising women in newsrooms.

“The nature of our work has pushed out some would-be good editors and reporters. The late nights. If you are not lucky enough to be dropped off by an office van, you may take a lift from some guy at work, and that puts you at the mercy of the man,” she explained.

New Vision Editor-in-Chief, Barbara Kaija, speaking at the same event, said there is a need for more education and information to fight the vice. To this end, her media house has revised its sexual harassment policy, including detailed definitions of sexual harassment.

“This is because sometimes people do things, and they do not know that it is sexual harassment,” Kaija said.

State minister for ICT, Joyce Ssebugwawo, challenged women to be champions in the fight against sexual harassment in the media.

“Do not keep quiet about sexual harassment of any nature,” she urged. “Report these people to authorities, and the government shall be able to protect you.”

Women in News has published a comprehensive sexual harassment toolkit with practical instruments to develop in-house policies, communication systems and investigative procedures.

Source: African Centre for Media Excellence

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