The Embassy of the United States of America, through its Public Affairs Section (PAS), recently launched a sponsored programme for women journalists to study political science at local tertiary education institutions.
The Women Journalists’ Mentoring Program-Fellowship (WMJP-F),supports ten alumni of the Women Journalist Mentoring Program (WJMP) by enabling them to attain undergraduate degrees with local institutions.
“This WJMP-Fellows program is a continuation of the Women Journalists’ Mentoring Program (WJMP), which the Public Affairs Section initiated in 2011 with the long-term objectives of encouraging women to stay in the media profession, and increasing the number of women in leadership positions in the country’s media industry,” explained Karen Kelley, Counsellor for PAS.
Kelley was speaking at the official conferment of the scholarships to the 10 WJMP participants. She added that this extension of the WJMP was a sign of commitment shown by the US government to support the empowerment of women in the media in Zimbabwe.
WJMP is a year-long programme during which PAS facilitates sessions with experts from the US on different media subjects, including radio and online reporting, in which they interact with Zimbabweans participants on the programme and share their experiences. Participants are also given an opportunity to meet with local veteran journalists as well as travel to regional media conferences such as Highway Africa. The ‘Ladies Night’ initiative has also been introduced, as part of the programme, to diversify interactions between male and female journalists at local hangouts.
Thelma Chikwanha, who was a WJMP participant, added that due to the fact that there are few women occupying editorial and managerial posts in Zimbabwe’s media houses, the programme is important towards the elevation of female journalists in the country.
“A basic degree course, in any subject or field, will open opportunities for many of these ladies,” said Chikwanha.
Kelley indicated that it was over the three years that WJMP has been running that her office found out that a good number of the participants had no degree level qualifications. It was from this realisation that PAS decided to work with some participants to organise WJMP-F. She added that there are many challenges hindering women from taking leadership positions in media houses, and that education was one important factor that her office has decided to start with.
“Our goal is not just to overcome these challenges but to ensure that employers have no excuse for refusing to promote women to leadership positions in media,” she said.
Political analyst, Charles Mangongera, commended the US embassy for initiating a programme that assists Zimbabwean female journalists to become more competent professionals.
“The female journalists in this programme are embarking on studies in political science that will change their lives,” he said. “They will emerge empowered journalists after attaining this degree.”.
The participants will study political science with the University of Zimbabwe, Women’s University in Africa and Midlands State University. Those studying at the UZ have already gone through the first semester of their first year and will begin the second semester in February 2015.
All photographs are courtesy Yolanda Ndlovu