HARARE – Sexual harassment is rampant in Zimbabwe’s newsrooms to the extent that female students are not prepared to come back to work as journalists after tortuous experiences during job attachments.
This has resulted in fewer women working in newsrooms as journalists.
The Minister of Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services Monica Mutsvangwa said this during a recent World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers (WAN-INFRA) Women in News Alums media conference held in Harare where 17 female journalists were also awarded certificates after a nine-month Leadership Acceleration Programme.
The conference sought to bring female journalists together to network and share experiences in newsrooms.
“l hear that most female students on attachment are harassed to such an extent that they do not come back to take journalism as a profession after graduating and this has seen
fewer women taking up journalism as a career.
“I want to call upon women in the industry to work together and fight this cancer. Let’s be the sister’s keeper,” said Mutsvangwa.
She called upon media organisations to create safe spaces for female journalists by developing sexual harassment policies that provide clear procedures and guidelines for dealing with such cases when they happen.
WAN-INFRA country manager for Zimbabwe, Susan Makore said female journalists must report sexual harassment cases, support each other, and advocate for clear reporting mechanisms and procedures in their organisations.
Victoria Ruzvidzo who heads The Sunday Mail, the country’s largest weekly newspaper said media organisations need to be more intentional in their efforts to fight sexual harassment in newsrooms. The scourge is real and it’s sad to hear young female journalism students confessing they will not work in newsrooms again because of experiences during attachment.
The introduction of sexual harassment policies and their implementation should be taken seriously. The idea of having cases swept under the carpet or perpetrators going unpunished should be a thing of the past. We have already lost too many future female journalists to this challenge.
The Mirror also sought the Zimbabwe Gender Commission Chief Executive Officer Virginia Muwanigwa, a veteran journalist herself and she said as a country we need to be deliberate about sexual harassment and formulate policies which are very clear about what sexual harassment is. Clear structures which deal with sexual harassment should be set up. She also encouraged young female journalists to be very clear when saying no and speak out once one is targeted. She also said that any victim or target of sexual harassment should come to Zimbabwe Gender Commission to file a formal or an informal report.
Veteran journalists and activist Ropafadzo Mapimhidze said media organisations should be proactive to ensure that sexual harassment of young female journalists comes to an end, and reporting channels of such issues should be very clear to help build trust with victims. ZUJ should also conduct regular workshops on sexual harassment awareness.
Former Zimbabwe Union of Journalists president who is also a former commissioner with the Zimbabwe Media Commission, Matthew Takaona said sexual harassment has always been a serious problem in the newsrooms. In 2006, a report had to be tabled before a Parliamentary Committee on Gender headed by then MP, Leo Mugabe.
“Sexual harassment is so serious in newsrooms that it can be a terror for both full-time female journalists and students on attachment. In 2006 ZUJ had to go the extra mile to fight this problem by inviting a Parliamentary Portfolio Committee to investigate sexual harassment at one of the State media organisations.
“The problem is that interventions to this problem are piecemeal hence the Minister says sexual harassment is increasing and rampant,” said Takaona.