Source: The Herald
Zimbabwe Newspapers (1980) Ltd, the country's largest media house, is set to introduce a gender policy in a bid to address gender disparities and improve its news content.

The group's editors held a two-day workshop in Kadoma last week, where the company signed a memorandum of understanding with Gender Links, an organisation that specialises in gender, media, women's rights and governance.

The Herald editor William Chikoto said this was a milestone in the history of the group and will see a change on the content of the company's publications.

He said the policy will ensure that the voices of women were heard alongside those of their male counterparts.

"This is definitely a great development and this will see a change in our market and content as a whole. The feel of our papers will change once we implement a gender policy," he said.

Chikoto said readers felt that some of the newspapers were too harsh on women and not easy to digest but the gender policy was going to address those issues and increase readership. He said it was important to understand that gender issues were real issues that need to be given their due attention and that with the right attitude Zimpapers will be a centre of excellence that recognises the needs of women in the media.

Chikoto said the group should strive to meet the target of the policy.

A study that was carried out in 2009 by Gender Links the "Glass Ceiling: Women and Men in Southern African Media," revealed that only 13 percent of women were in the media in Zimbabwe while 87 were men, 12 percent of those women were in top management while 17 percent sit on boards. Women were under represented in all newsrooms sampled in Zimbabwe. The study showed that women are fewer in newsrooms citing discouraging working conditions as the main reason. The other reason was that there was lack of recruitment of women in the media. Women also cited lack of role models in the newsroom and difficulties in juggling responsibilities. Victoria Ruzvidzo, managing editor of The Herald, said women tended to give up easily in journalism.

"Female journalists tend to give up easily and go into public relations and there is no way one can be an editor if they are not exposed to the newsroom environment. Again some of them lack the passion and thus they run away," she said.

The policy will see female journalists and other media personnel being afforded a fair chance to be part of the group as recruitment and selection will be deliberately gender selective.

The work environment will have initiatives that promote a gender friendly environment that encourages women to stay in the field longer.

Sunday News editor and chairman of the Zimbabwe Editors Association Paul Mambo said women must stay longer in the newsroom in order for them to gain experience and be promoted.

He said it was disappointing that although they have tried to recruit female journalists from colleges to ensure gender balance, most of them have left for public relations, marketing, further studies and end up taking jobs as lecturers.

"Women must realise that in order for them to be in decision making positions in the media, there is need for them to stay longer, work harder and rise through the ranks," he said.

Also present at the workshop were editors from The Sunday Mail Brezhnev Malaba, The Chronicle Innocent Gore and his deputy Tumeliso Makhurane, Manica Post Hatred Zenenga, Kwayedza Patrick Shamba, H-Metro deputy editor Robert Mukondiwa and B-Metro editor Limukani Ncube.

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