The women Journalist Association of The Gambia (WoJAG) joins voices around the world to mark this year’s International Women’s Day (IWD 2023) under the theme; “DigitALL: Innovation and technology for gender equality”. While the theme is putting spotlight on women and girls who are championing the advancement of transformative technology and digital education, WoJAG believes it’s important to highlight the gender inequalities that exist in the Gambian media. The Gambian media is operating in a patriarchal society with unequal power relations between men and women which put women at the lowest rungs of the socioeconomic ladder and render them vulnerable to different forms of rights violation. While women journalists play pivotal roles in the development of the Gambian media, working as reporters, presenters, editors, producers, technicians, managers and media proprietors, they continue to face challenges such as; gender inequality; sexual harassment; low pay amongst others in media houses across the country.
A study on the working conditions of media workers in the country conducted by the Gambia Press Union in 2020, reveals that 37 percent of media workers are female. While this shows that the media is largely dominated by men, the report also shows that significant gaps exist when conditions for both men and women are compared at all levels, especially in terms of pay, positions, and even treatment. It is important to note that many women journalists have acquired the necessary knowledge and skills over the past years which shows that there isn’t a lack of knowledge and skills among women journalists. Yet, editorial boards and decision-making positions in newsrooms continue to be mainly dominated by men. Banna Sabally, the secretary general of WoJAG said for gender inequality to be mitigated in the media, women should also be ready to push extra hard to get promotions like their male counterparts.
“It is visible that many women are joining the journalism field but the fact remains the higher you go, the fewer women you find in media houses and this is because of the gender discrimination that exist in the media. It is like women have to proof themselves over and over again to be accepted or seen capable which is not the case with men, that’s sad,” she said.
She called on media owners and managers to embrace equality by ensuring women in the media are promoted and empowered like they do with the opposite gender. “True inclusion and belonging requires equitable action in all aspects. Aside discrimination, women in the media are faced with sexual harassment. Research by the GPU reveals that 22 percent of the respondents have heard rumours of sexual harassment in the workplace, 40 percent heard it more than twice, 23.9 percent are aware of someone being sexually harassed and 13.7 percent have had personal experience of sexual harassment,” Sabally said.
For her part, WoJAG President Annette Camara said the association is working on addressing the challenges women journalists face and called on women journalists to be assertive and also work on improving themselves both professionally and academically to avoid men taking advantage of their vulnerability.”
While wishing women media workers a happy women’s day, the WoJAG president called on all media employers to renew their commitment to ensuring gender equality, by improving working conditions for women journalists and ensure they are accorded fair treatment in the workplace.