Sikhonzile Ndlovu

Sikhonzile Ndlovu

Date: October 19, 2011
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“As a media student I never used to think or see anything wrong with media until I did the media literacy course with Gender Links. I did not know how to use a map book. After the course I was able to design and publish training and pamphlets. Through the IT training I learnt how to use the computer, photoshop, internet and designing brochures. Training helps to form part of the socials network forum. I could log on cyber dialogues and communicate with others on the internet.” – Sikhonzile Ndlovu, Gender and Media Manager, talking to GL external evaluator Sandra Ayoo.

The words “Skhoe, you don’t average percentages” still rings fresh in my mind when I reflect on my professional journey at Gender Links. I still remember my first week at GL vividly. It was the week of 15 January 2007 when I found myself with raw data on advertising from four countries. This was after I joined the GL research department as an intern. Yes I did make mistakes and quite a number of them. Fortunately, there were willing colleagues and management who afforded me the space to learn and grow on this front.

2009 saw me being thrown into the deep end once again when I assumed responsibility for GL’s Media Training programme. I had been doing Media Literacy training but had never done any work around governance issues, especially elections. Coordinating the media literacy training project had also been made easier by the fact that the training manual was already there when I joined Gender Links.

The Gender, Media and Elections project therefore presented me with enormous challenges and opportunities for growth. First, I had to try and understand different electoral systems in the region. Whilst I had followed political happenings in SADC before then, I had done so from a distance, not really getting into the finer details. Elections in Zimbabwe and South Africa, however, awakened some level of interest in me, “Zim” being the land of my birthright and South Africa, now my home away from home.

My first task as I took over the Gender, Media and Elections project was to develop training materials for the Namibia workshops ahead of that country’s November 2009 election. The fact sheet gave me enormous challenges because I had to read and understand the Namibian electoral system. And being Zimbabwean where we use the “first past the post” system, it took a lot of time for me to grasp this whole new idea of “proportional representation”. This exercise, however, presented me with vast learning opportunities because it meant that I had to read as well as “apply my mind”, as the ED would say.

I moved from developing fact sheets, to developing the training manual. Although there were templates that had been done by my predecessors, I learnt that training manuals are not necessarily, “one size fits all”. I had to understand the country context as well as find country-specific examples. I am grateful that this project forced me to go back to basics… that is, reading because we can only make sense of our work if we create time to read and contextualise our work.

Monitoring and Evaluation has also been another key learning area for me. It is always a source of joy to be able to measure the difference that Gender Links is making in people’s lives; otherwise we “labour in vain.” I started 2010 as Media Training Manager and ended it as Media Programme Manager. That in itself has come about as a result of the numerous learning curves I have gone through over time. As a young professional, I constantly reflect on the way we work and the numerous learning opportunities that Gender Links presents. Through that experience gained over the years, I am now a proud manager of the Gender Links Media Programme and responsible for media research and policy work in 14 SADC countries!

Sikhonzile Ndlovu, Gender and Media Manager


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