The United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) has funded the Initiatives for Media Development (IMdev) for the implementation of a project title, “Women’s Empowerment through Strengthened Gender Sensitive Media.” The project after signing was officially launched by IMdev at their Signal Hill Road Office in Freetown on Monday 30th September 2019. The project was designed as a result of a survey conducted on women peace and security by IMdev to determine the number of women to men in the media landscape in the country. According to the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) 2017 Inequality Index indicated that women in Sierra Leone are particular at risk with the country ranking 150 out of 189 in the world. Despite strides made by women, the media is challenged especially the print and TV outlet, is notably unwilling to open the space for women to freely express themselves.
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Yeama Sarah Thompson, the Executive Director of IMdev stated that, “The apparent stifling of women’s voice in the public arena and the tendency to look at public issues from a male perspective, and by extension, influencing public policy, … with a male dominated narrative is no doubt contributing to the undernourishment of our fragile democracy in Sierra Leone.” The Executive Director said as part of the UNESCO project her organization has proposed the implementation of the project in collaboration with local media partners through 4 principal activities including ’Investigative Fellowships for journalists, Newsroom mentorship of journalists, Editors and Owners’ Forums and Leadership in Media Training.’ Ramatu Kamara, Producer Skyy Women Radio Network said being a woman in the media is no big deal pointing that if men can practice within laid down rules and regulations there is every reason that women too can do it. She said despite the fact that there are lesser number of women in the profession as compared to men, there is need for encouragement for more women to join the media because according to her, women can narrate better in terms of news angle than men. Kamara said the media houses are challenged with training for staff especially women despite other platform of Empowerment, women inclusion and participation. For the fact that UNESCO is funding IMdev to undertake such training for women there is positive prospect for women in the media. Yeama Sarah Thompson said that the number of men in the media is by far larger to that of the women and the “unwillingness to open the space” for women to freely express themselves according to her, runs counter to the ideals of a free and pluralistic media, which among other considerations, not only calls for multiple voices but also diverse sources including a fair and robust gender representation.
By Mohamed Kabba
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