October 28, 2021

Sexual harassment: A deterrent to young female scribes’ career

Nozipho Rutsate

“It was 10am on a Tuesday morning as I was sitting quietly at my corner desk. I gazed into the ceiling trying to figure out where I would get my next story after submitting my last article to the editor of our weekly community newspaper. Having been new in the newsroom, it was so hard to try and get a hold of sources then boom, one of my male colleagues in the newsroom gives me a diary. So I go and cover the story”.

“My colleague was helpful in assisting me to get my way around the newsroom and linking me with sources for news. My experience was getting exciting as I had found a mentor. Later on I was introduced to an influential source whom we exchanged contacts for each time I would want information, I could get hold of them. Our conversations with my source were work-related until I came across a message that read; ‘I like you a lot and let us go out for drinks’. I refused the offer and advised that we stick to business”.

“I began receiving nasty sexual comments about my physical appearance. I went to my colleague to report on my source but to my surprise, he offered his support only to sarcastically rephrase comments from my source. He asked me what would I lose if I would be involved with the source but rather gain more especially money for my upkeep as the newsrooms are under resourced. I felt like giving up and even stopped reporting for a while because I was scared”.

This story is one of the plights a young female journalist [who cannot be named to protect identity] went through as they began their career in the newsroom.

A workshop titled “Journalism for the Future: Training and Mentorship Programme” conducted by the Friedrich Naumann

From left side is investigative journalist, Bridget Mananavire, photojournalist, Annie Mpalume and on the far right, ZimInd editor, Faith Zaba handing over a certificate to one of the young female journalist

Foundation in Midlands during the weekend became a safe space were a few young women narrated their ordeals during a training session on sexual harassment experiences in line of duty that was facilitated by Zimbabwe Independent newspaper editor Faith Zaba.

Zaba narrated some of her personal experiences in the newsroom for the young female scribes to get a picture of the struggle she fought to survive the newsroom and become an editor.

“I went through various forms of abuse and up till today, I was bullied on the cyber space due to my appointment as Editor of the ZimInd. It took me 27 years of hard labor and toiling to be finally recognized as a women that could occupy a decision making position in the newsroom. We can’t continue to take sexual harassment like it’s a norm, we went through it, it is still happening, but it should stop! The movement to put an end to this abuse should start now,” Zaba said in a commanding tone as she took charge upon the situation.

One of the veteran female journalist’s, Sunday Mail editor Victoria Ruzvidzo said the media environment was unconducive for females as males define the complexion of newsrooms for they occupy the larger population in media houses.

“Journalism careers have always been dominated by men, so if you don’t stand up for yourself as a female journalist and demand your space, you may not make it and succumb to challenges such as sexual harassment. Journalism is for the brave, but to be a female journalist is daring,” Ruzvidzo said as she advised young female scribes to be fearless.

Ruzvidzo said she took up the training opportunity to give back to society as part of social responsibility and help increase capacity of young female scribes through sharing her experiences in the newsroom.

“With my 28 years of experience working under Zimpapers, I wish to impart the knowledge I have gained through mentoring other young female journalists across the country. It should not take more than 25 years for female journalists to become editors and we hope to change this narrative now,” she said.

ZiFM Stereo journalist and news presenter, Martha Mamombe urged the young women to create and become their own brand and understand the benefits of corporate etiquette in limiting occurrences of sexual harassment.
Award-winning photo-journalist Anne Mpalume and Newshawks senior investigative journalist Bridget Mananavire echoed similar sentiments and encouraged the young women to be thirsty on investigating issues in innovative ways.

Friedrich Naumann Foundation Programs Manager, Fungisai Sithole said the Foundation created this space to allow young female journalists to fully enjoy their freedom in the media.
“Freedom emancipates an individual and promotes the urge to fights for the freedoms for all people using the correct channels and procedures,” said Sithole.