Namibia female journalists advocate for parity amid 30th anniversary of Windhoek Declaration.
WINDHOEK, May 6– As the global community observed World Press Freedom Day along with the 30th anniversary of the Windhoek Declaration on May 3, female journalists in Namibia were defying odds to thrive in the field.
From a mobile station or at a coffee shop, June Shimooshili, media manager of UnWrap, an online entertainment publication, would invest time to market, source news, fact-check, and curate stories for the news outlet.
“It has not been easy since the start due to challenges such as lack of adequate funds, among others. But if you find something that you are passionate about, if you see a gap, there are so many opportunities out there,” she said.
Shimooshili is one of the journalists who relayed experiences working in the media at the ‘Women in Media’ event held in observance of the 30th anniversary of the Windhoek Declaration, which ran from April 29 to May 3.
Exactly 30 years ago, African journalists assembled in Windhoek, Namibia’s capital, in the quest for freedom of expression, independent and pluralistic press, and adopted the landmark Windhoek Declaration culminating into the World Press Freedom Day as declared by the United Nations General Assembly on May 3, 1993.
For Sharon Kavhu, a freelancer, journalism has been a tool for community empowerment, puncturing myths and promoting social progression.
“I realized that when I have in me the ability to socialize and impact development, I started using that as a weapon to make other people have a better life,” Kavhu said.
She achieves this through rural reporting and covering societal topics such as fertility, health, climate change and child marriage.
“I would go to areas that people would usually not travel to and unearth the issues. The more I get a challenging story to cover, the more I get excited,” said the award-winning journalist.
Nevertheless, despite Namibia highly ranking in press freedom with commendable progress made in promoting equality in the newsroom, as in many other countries, it has not been easy for local female journalists to work in the media. Disparities persist.
“Some people in the industry will try to suppress you just because you are a woman. But one should never let that silence you,” Kavhu said.
Jemima Beukes, a seasoned journalist at a local daily newspaper, is one of the female journalists in Namibia defying odds amid challenges female journalists face working in the broader media fraternity.
Although Beukes sees journalism as a public duty beyond gender roles, she said it is not easy to be a female journalist.
According to her, women in the newsroom have been undermined and overlooked for career progression opportunities such as promotions, usually due to gender roles and socially ascribed responsibilities.
“For far too long, we have been undervalued. As women, we are working so hard to prove ourselves as worthy, not just as female journalists but also as journalists. By the time we are done fighting, we are so tired and cannot build other female journalists,” she said.
The challenges are not exempt to seasoned and experienced journalists. Journalism graduates seeking to penetrate the market also face many challenges such as the economic downturn and retrenchment in the media industry.
Meanwhile, the journalists advocated for parity in the media industry across all spheres. “We need to support each other to this end to level the playing field,” Beukes urged.
Unions also called for a drastic transformation of labor relations in the media fraternity. Namibia Media Professionals Union secretary-general, Sakeus Iikela, highlighted the need for an improved and conducive working environment for journalists in Namibia and the broader African continent.
“Namibia workers from all sectors, including journalists, have played a pivotal role in the fight for freedom and independence. However, some media houses in Namibia are guilty of subjecting the journalists to meager wages and poor working conditions. There is a need to do better,” he said.
In the interim, to address knowledge gaps and increase chances for career prospects for women in the media, Wanja Njuguna, senior lecturer of communications at the Namibia University of Science and Technology, encouraged journalists to upgrade their qualifications to broaden their resource of general knowledge.
“Advance by getting an education to learn something that you do not know. Because as a journalist, one should be ready to tackle any story. Likewise for versatility,” Njuguna said.
This year’s World Press Freedom Day was held under the theme of ‘information as a public good’. Xinhua