Semion Shumba – Malawi

Semion Shumba – Malawi

Date: June 30, 2015
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For Semion Shumba, Power 101 Head of News, reporting gender goes beyond covering Mother’s Day events or the 16 Days of Activism campaign against gender violence. Shumba, who has only attended one Gender Links workshop in 2009, testifies that the training equipped him with unique skills on gender reporting. His rule number one when he is assigning the reporter to do a story on gender is “impact of the story.”

“I always tell my colleagues in the newsroom to tell me the impact of the gender story they would like to cover before interviewing the sources,” Shumba says. He challenges that a mere report of a 16 Days of Activism Campaign or a rape case is not enough, but taking to task gender activists or responsible government ministries on why a particular area or region has a higher gender violence prevalence compared to the other; finding solutions to gender violence as opposed to merely reporting them.

“I also challenge my fellow reporters in the newsroom to ensure that reporting gender goes beyond reporting GBV. There is a gender aspect to economics, politics, climate change and education. Journalists should therefore not narrow their coverage by thinking that gender reporting is just about GBV or a rape case,” says Shumba.

In January this year, Shumba was among some journalists who took to task the First Grade Magistrate Titus Banda for acquitting a rapist through his famous Sunday lunch hour phone in programme. According to media reports, the magistrate did not find the rapist guilty based on, among other things, a submission that the complainant did not feel pain. Shumba argues that he found this to be very absurd.

“It does not make sense to me that one man steals a chicken and is sentenced to five years imprisonment while the other one who has raped a minor – and who knows? He might have infected her with a virus that cause Aids – is given a suspended sentence,” argues Shumba, adding that a poor justice system has robbed women and girls their rights as opposed to defending them.

From the time Shumba attended the GL training four years ago facilitated by Pushpa Jameson, he has always worked towards increasing the female voice on the radio. He is achieving this in two ways.

“I have decided to train as many female journalists as possible, because this will mean the radio will have more female presenters, newscasters and reporters. On the other hand, I am encouraging reporters to be interviewing female experts and ordinary women, as opposed to to featuring the voices of men only,” says Shumba. “If news is about people, then women should also be part and parcel of it!”

Rachel Joshua and Alefa Lyson are some of the female journalists that Shumba is proud to have groomed. Rachel is described by her colleagues at the station as an asset. She is an all-rounder in as far as radio broadcasting is concerned. When GL visited the studios, Rachel was on the sound console playing inserts for the midday news bulletin. She is also a news reporter, presenter and programme producer. Shumba spotted Rachel’s talent when she came for internship in 2012 and he motivated that she should be employed permanently after noting she was a promising media practitioner.

Alefa heads a gender desk at the station and she is also a producer of Mlatho (bridge) programme. Mlatho, a brainchild of Alefa, is a radio feature programme that targets needy young girls and motivates them to work hard in school and realise their dreams.

However, Shumba bemoans that very few female trained journalists are willing to work in mainstream media. “We have had cases where young female journalists decide to stop coming to work claiming that the pressure is too much in the newsroom. Some female journalists do not understand when we say news is telling the extraordinary story out of the ordinary event.

“When I advise them to tackle news this way, they claim that the pressure is too much”, lamented Shumba. He thinks this is among the major reasons why most newsrooms have fewer women compared to men. However, this is not a discouraging factor for Shumba, as he plans to identify more female talented journalists and mentor them into versatile media professionals.


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