Pauline Banda – Zambia

Pauline Banda – Zambia

Date: January 20, 2014
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Pauline Banda has held various positions in her media career including that of junior, senior, chief, features reporter, Gender, Features and Supplements Editor, but now she is the news editor at the Zambia Daily Mail, a rare position to be held by a female journalist in Zambia.  Critical as it maybe, the position of news editor entails among overseeing what goes in the newspaper, and is perceived to be sensitive and highly demanding; this is the reason many associate it as a position best suited for men.

“I have been a practicing journalist for 23 years. I started my career with a news agency called Palesa in 1989 and I moved to the Zambia Daily Mail two years later where I have held various positions that of reporter, senior reporter, chief reporter, features reporter, gender editor, features and supplementary editor and now News Editor. I have also acted as Deputy Managing Director for the Zambia Daily Mail on several occasions,” says Banda.

Pauline’s duties entail managing the news desk, which fills up pages one to five of the newspaper on a daily basis, except for Sunday which is done by the Sunday Mail. She also has to assign reporters at the head office and regional offices, assisted by the deputy news editor and the chief reporter, plus she edits stories for publication.

Banda was the pioneer Gender Editor when the desk was created at the Zambia Daily Mail in 2000 and has been writing a gender column known as “GENDER FOCUS” for 14 years (from 1998 to July 2012). She says, “I have covered a wide range of gender and development issues including women’s health, sexual harassment and gender based violence in general, human rights, women in politics and decision making.” Banda also contributes her newspaper’s decision to make a deliberate effort to deal holistically with women’s issues.

Banda has attended many Gender Links seminars and conferences. She remembers being part of a workshop on gender violence at the Zambia Mass Communication Institute (ZAMCOM) lodge in 2011, and says she has had useful interactions with GL trainers in general.

She makes a difference in that she has continued to raise the profile of women and helping them understand their rights, especially on Gender based violence (GBV) which is a common violation of women’s rights. Banda says she is able to make a difference because women have been following her writing and giving her feedback on the issues she has raised over the years in her gender column and sometimes even suggesting which topics to write on.

Her worst experience has been backlash from men who did not appreciate or understand her crusade for women’s rights. “They often misunderstood my viewpoints to mean I was pushing for women to take over the world. I learnt that I have to try to balance and explain my points as clearly as possible to avoid creating a situation where men feel left out of the rights crusade” Banda says.

Banda’s best experience had been the feedback from a cross section of readers, both men and women. She described their interaction as encouraging, and made her feel that she was touching lives in her own small way. She says readers have also been fantastic with their different views on a whole range of topics. Banda said, “To some extent my family which also rendered support and gave me a few ideas. The women’s movement in Zambia has provided some events on which I based some of my stories.”

She says Gender Links has been an inspiration and a great crusader for women’s rights; the consistency and persistence of GL encouraged her to be part of the women’s rights crusade.

“My role models include Edwidge Mutale, the current Permanent Secretary in the ministry of gender in Zambia who has been instrumental in giving me general tips on gender and encouraging me to pursue gender studies at an opportune time. I also admire greatly, Zambia’s former ambassador to the United States Inonge Mbikusita-Lewanika, who is an international gender fundi and activist. Others are Professor Hope Sadza of Zimbabwe.”

Banda believes 100 per cent that it is her role as a journalist to contribute to making a difference to women’s lives. She says part of her role is to inform and educate, and in the process, be able to make a difference in the lives of many women. “Members of the public look up to the media not only for information, education and entertainment but also for some kind of inspiration. The public can use the media as a vehicle to convey their views on various issues,” Banda said. She urged media practitioners to view their jobs as a calling which they can use to improve lives in their communities and make the world a better place for all. Banda says change in one person’s life can inspire others to make their own lives better, and can create hope in other people; there is a ripple effect.

It is Banda’s opinion that the media should make a deliberate effort to capture as many sources of news as possible, including women, to give them voice and visibility, which is necessary in putting women in their rightful position in society.

She spells out her future plans, “To pursue a degree in gender studies and sociology, with the Harare-based Women’s University in Africa starting later this year, all things being equal. After that, God willing I can try to open up other avenues of changing the lives of women.”  Banda has encouraged Gender Links to identify particular individuals who have exhibited interest in gender issues for mentorship and if possible further training. She concludes, “The women’s rights and equality crusade is a life time commitment in which everyone should participate, regardless of their status in society.”

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