Source: The New Times 

There is need for more female journalists in decision-making positions and protection of women in the trade from sexual and any other violence that may impede their career growth, officials have said.

The call was made on Monday as the world celebrates Press Freedom Day which is marked every year on May 3.

In a televised message to mark the day, Jeannette Bayisenge, the Minister of Gender and Family Promotion said that just like in other sectors, female journalists have a big role to play in national development in collaboration with their male colleagues.

"However, in order for them to achieve that, we should protect them from sexual violence and any other kind of violence that can prevent them from exploiting existing opportunities and benefiting their rights," she said.

She urged more women and girls to join journalism career as part of efforts to promote gender in all sectors.

"Those already in journalism career should continue putting efforts in working professionally producing stories that are of human interest nature including investigative stories," she added.

On his part, Commissioner of Police John Bosco Kabera, Rwanda National Police Spokesperson, called for respect to women journalist which he said will encourage more women to join the career.

"They should be enabled to occupy decision-making positions in various media houses that employ them," he said.

By adhering to professionalism, there is a need to strive for press freedom based on professional journalists. We wish happy press freedom day to all journalists," he added.

Why women remain few in Rwanda's media sector

According to the statistics from the study, the number of accredited journalists is 1,025 of which only 23.8 per cent are female.

Even very fewer of these are in decision-making positions.

A study commissioned by the now defunct Rwanda Media Council on gender status in the country's media sector, whose findings were published in 2020, outlined a number of reasons why women remain few in the media practice.

The assessment was sampled on 355 respondents including media partners and policy makers, media associations and NGOs, media students and journalists, media managers and editors among others.

The survey indicates that women are still few in the sector because the number of girls that graduate from schools of journalism/ media also remains low compared to their male counterparts.

According to the study, even the few who graduate tend to shy away from media practice due to lack of conditions including low pay by media houses.

Some women, the report indicates, shun the sector due to fear of sexual harassment, while another major reason is cultural misconceptions.

It further highlights that ladies are not given equal chances like their male counterparts and when it happens, they are assigned to soft programmes and discouraged to explore their full potential.

Violence against female journalists

According to the study, 33.5 per cent of women media practitioners face financial constraints, 29.2 per cent face sexual harassment, 15.5 per cent face cultural barriers, 14.9 per cent unwillingness and low self-esteem while 5.6 per cent lack skills in media sector.

Other challenges that hinder gender equality in the media sector, the study quoted media managers saying that Rwanda's media is poor because the economy is also poor.

The report also called for capacity building for media managers on gender issues and increase their knowledge in other areas such as business management, entrepreneurship and innovation.

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