Celebrating women in broadcast

Celebrating women in broadcast

Date: August 5, 2011
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August is women’s month in South Africa. We say our farewells to Oprah Winfrey as her talk show comes to an end after running on television in different countries for 25 seasons. To bring these celebrations closer to home, Gender Links caught up with three women who have made it in the broadcasting sector in SADC in different capacities. These are Ntsiuoa Sekete (NS), the Executive Producer for Lesotho Television and Radio Lesotho; Rosemary Makhambela (RM), Station Manager for Malawi Institute of Journalism (MIJ) FM; and Sarry Xoagus-Eises (SXE), former journalist at Namibia Broadcasting Corporation. Coincidentally, the theme for SA’s women’s month is “Working together to enhance women’s opportunities to economic empowerment”. By featuring women in broadcasting, we encourage young women to take up broadcasting as a career.

Q: Who are you and how did you get into broadcast? What kind of broadcast did you do?
NS: I have been in broadcasting for nine years. I started my career as a volunteer at LTV in 2002 while completing a degree in theater and drama at the National University of Lesotho. My dream was to become an artist but the experience I got at LTV made me fall in love with media and I decided to carry on with the profession.
RM: When I was young, I always dreamt of working for a radio station as a broadcaster. In 2001, I started my journey in Journalism and enrolled with MIJ for my certificate course and consequently obtained a Diploma in Journalism in 2003 with the same institution. In 2005 I got a job at MIJ as a part-time presenter. As time passed I was promoted to a position of Assistant Broadcaster.
SXE: I joined broadcasting in the early 80’s while I was in exile in the Republic of Zambia. I worked at the Zambia National Broadcasting Corporation, at Tanzania Broadcasting Corporation and the External Service of National Radio of Angola. When I came back from exile in 1989, I went to Namibia Broadcasting Corporation (NBC), the only broadcasting corporation in Namibia. I started with news gathering in the news room and later got promoted to work on television production on issues that affect women.

Q: What are some of the challenges for women in broadcast in SADC today?
NS: Rising through the newsroom ranks is a major challenge. Most broadcasting services are managed by men, and this leads to sexual harassment at work as women attempt to rise to the top.
RM: Women receive unfair treatment in the newsroom and are not entrusted with bigger challenges compared with their male counterparts. On the other hand, women tend to demoralise each other. They would love to have a male boss than a female boss and this attitude needs to change.
SXE: The creative aspect – the space is so polluted that the issues of women get lost in the air. It’s not a priority for the corporations. Women are assigned soft beats – “We are going to a nursery school today” or “They are opening a borehole here…” – and it is difficult for them to rise through the ranks as hard beat stories are considered for promotion. In exile, it was different. We were only broadcasting politically motivated stories and we all covered that. We were all motivated by the question what type of news and commentaries do we give to our people so that they support the struggle? I left a mark in the broadcasting industry as I always stood for what I believed in. At times you need that spirit in the industry.

Q: What was your best moment/most transformational moment in broadcast?
Writing a story about one struggling communities in the highlands of Lesotho called Qobane in Quting district was memorable. She highlighted the struggles of a remote community without proper roads, schools and hospitals. Pupils were studying under trees and did not have tables, chairs and learning materials. People had to walk long distances to get to hospitals because there was no public transport. I was able to get there by a chopper. My story was an eye opener and changed the conditions in that village. Consequently, the government established the Selemela project in 2007 to develop that community and the project is running to this day.
RM: Getting a job as the Station Manager for MIJ FM after competing with four men. I moved from a mere broadcaster to the highest position of a Station Manager in radio. Besides, I was the only woman who competed for the post. It was the happiest moment of my life.
SXE: In 2007, after attending meetings with Gender Links and receiving training, I established the first ever Gender Desk at the NBC. I had to lobby even the then Minister of Information and Broadcasting to support the idea. The desk disappeared after my departure. The thing is that to maintain such a desk, one needs a clear vision because there is the hard task of convincing 600 other employees to support your vision.

Q: Do you have any advice for young women who want to get into broadcast?
NS: Dedication and hard work is important.
RM: I believe in the three P’s, patience, passion and perseverance. Education is equally important as it also opens opportunities.
SXE: The fact that you come out of a college does not say that you are a broadcaster already. You should be in the field, bring out the stories – it’s a profession that needs to be nurtured every day and with broadcasting, those skills should be sharpened because the connection between you and the audience is direct. So you should make sure that you meet those standards.

0 thoughts on “Celebrating women in broadcast”

Sophia Tlali says:

It is gratifying to see SADC women in broadcasting being celebrated. Gender Links is doing a very good job of putting women on the map especially women in Lesotho. Being in a small country there is usually no competition so performance standards pose a serious challenge. Those who make it to the radar are truly celebrated. Congratulations Ladies.

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