Zenzela Ndebele – Zimbabwe

Zenzela Ndebele – Zimbabwe

Date: June 30, 2015
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“The most difficult thing in mainstreaming gender into our programmes was identifying woman sources,” says Zenzele Ndebele recounting his journey with Gender Links (GL). “Reporters always claimed that women were not willing to speak on issues like politics, but thanks to the trainings we received from Gender Links, we now have several women sources.” Ndebele, the Station Manager for Radio Dialogue, a community radio station based in Zimbabwe’s second largest city, Bulawayo, is inspired to make a difference in the fight for gender equality.

“What inspires me are the women I see everyday coming to Radio Dialogue with a story to tell. Most of our active community members are women, and it always pains me that when it comes to serious issues women, who are the most active participants, are not given a platform to express their views. Our slogan is ‘Giving you a voice’ and I believe women in our community need to be given the voice because no one can tell their story better than them.”

Ndebele is one of the founders of the station having joined it at its inception in 2001 as a junior reporter, before assuming the position of station manager. Radio Dialogue, whose slogan is “Giving You a Voice”, is a community radio station that provides a channel to debate and discuss current political, social, cultural and economic issues affecting the community of Bulawayo.

Ndebele’s first encounter with GL was in 2008, when Radio Dialogue participated in Glass Ceilings: Women and Men in Southern Africa Media. At 38% women, the community station had the highest proportion of women in Zimbabwean newsrooms but lower than the regional average of 41%.

Since then, he has been the driving force behind the station’s moves to mainstream gender into policies, procedures and content. “When I started attending training workshops on how we can cover gender stories, I never thought it was going to be easy. For a long time I had encouraged my reporters to include women voices and the answer I always got was ‘women are not interested in commenting,'” he says. “To my surprise, even female reporters thought the same. I never thought they would be interested in the training or implementing what they were trained. After a few weeks, there was a big difference. Reporters started to make an effort to look for female voices. After a short while there was a database of female analysts.”

Ndebele says working with GL has made him gender sensitive in assigning stories to reporters, producing programmes and has helped him to maintain a family-friendly working environment by being sensitive to working conditions of both female and male reporters. For him, the most significant change brought by working with GL is in the community radio station’s content. “We still have a long way to go, but Gender Links changed the perception that women do not want to comment on political and business issues. I had to be strict with the reporters to make sure they adhere to the policy.”

Radio Dialogue became the first media organisation in Zimbabwe to draft and implement a gender policy with assistance from GL, in line with the requirements of the SADC Protocol on Gender and Development. The protocol encourages the media to mainstream gender in their codes of conduct, policies and procedures. It also urges them to adopt and implement gender aware ethical principles, codes of practice and policies in accordance with the Protocol on Culture, Information and Sport.

Before we started working with Gender Links, the organisation had no gender policy. Most of our programmes had very few if any women voices. Some of our programmes stereotyped women, like had women being interviewed only when we were producing programmes on fashion and cooking. But a lot has improved; we now have women voices in our programmes, and we have programmes that specifically address gender issues.”

Some of the gender programmes run by the community radio station include Fusion, an English programme that is broadcasted every Monday on short wave and Ebandla, a Ndebele programme that features every Thursday.

Ndebele says the road towards gender equality is not without its challenges but they are able to overcome the challenges through assistance from GL media facilitator for Zimbabwe. “Thabani Mpofu (GL media facilitator for Zimbabwe) has been responsible for most of the training, making follow-ups on programmes that we do, encouraging us and giving us suggestions on new programmes and women sources.”

Ndebele says the GL media facilitator gave them the idea of creating an in-house data base of women sources in various sectors of society and that has helped them identify women in decision-making of almost all sectors.

Radio Dialogue is one of the GL Centres Of Excellence (COEs) who have been seconded a media facilitator to provide support in the form of training, advocacy and research in an effort to strengthen media house practice in SADC in the run up to 2015, the deadline for implementation of the SADC Protocol on Gender and Development. Ndebele says the station has put in place a monitoring and evaluation department whose responsibilities include ensuring that employees adhere to the organisation’s policies.


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