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TWO-THIRDS GENDER PRINCIPLE

More women leaders needed in newsrooms

In Summary

• Very few women are part of editorial decision-making and even where they are present, they are often outnumbered

The journey towards the realisation of the two-thirds gender principle has been loud, bumpy, messy and with casualties. According to the National Gender and Equality Commission, it has been punctuated with epic highs and lows, exasperations, hot tempers and near desperation; and has morphed into one of the heavily debated and contentious issues since the promulgation of the 2010 Constitution.

In a recently released report, Journey to Gender Parity in Political Representation, the NGEC examines the cautious yet bold consultative framework through the Technical Working Group that sought to broker a practical and politically sound formula for the realisation of two-thirds gender principle as enshrined in Article 27.

The accounts range from hard to soft lobbying tactics deployed by various influencers. It exposes the initial naivety of the Technical Working Group while seeking a framework within the shortest time possible.

 

If you have keenly followed this debate, you will imagine that this conversation only affects women and those that fall within the Special Interest Groups such as persons with disability and the youth and only within political representation. Those who have truly missed it have termed it as a battle of the sexes, warfare of genders laced with patriarchy - a truly dangerous dose of political propaganda.

This situation is not new. Look around and see it repeating itself even in our working spaces. The media landscape is not any different. I know this too well, I have heard the stories, I have listened to the whispers along the corridors, I have experienced it and others too.

We must be deliberate about having more women sitting at the decision-making table. It is not enough to have women sitting at the table and nodding, we need to have more women voices amplified at the high table. Their ideas, concerns and thoughts given the same weight as the men sitting at the table

I do have contents that can make a complete publication. Very few women are part of editorial decision-making and even where they are present, they are often outnumbered.

We have to be deliberate. Newsrooms must employ human resource policies that will ensure that the gender principle is realised. This means, while hiring, all panelists during the interview are aware of the existing demographics and hence keen on ensuring that a balance is achieved.

We must be deliberate about making the newsroom a conducive working environment for women. This includes enactment of policies that ensure protection and safety of women against sexual harassment, intimidation and unnecessary threats.

Contractual protection that will see women advance a balance between jobs and their family goals, including paid parental leave policies. How many newsrooms have baby crèches? How many newsrooms have flexible working hours for nursing mothers?

Any newsroom with infant-at-work programmes? How many newsrooms have parking spaces for pregnant women? We must be deliberate about creating spaces where having children and advancing career goals are seamless.

 

We must be deliberate about having more women sitting at the decision-making table. It is not enough to have women sitting at the table and nodding, we need to have more women voices amplified at the high table. Their ideas, concerns and thoughts given the same weight as the men sitting at the table.

We must be deliberate about the role of mentorship in our newsrooms. Women who are at the top must make a deliberate move to grow those coming behind them. The challenges that deter women from climbing the ladder in the media spaces are historical as well as institutional. We must be bold enough to call out the practices and work structures that make it twice as hard for women to deliver as required and then pay them less than what is paid to men for equivalent work done.

We must be deliberate about creating safe spaces for women in the newsrooms to talk about the challenges they face as they execute their roles. In the past, these challenges were not spoken about. Now than ever before, women in media must remain unbowed, but strategically making use of all the avenues to make the newsroom a level playing field for both men and women who find their calling in this noble profession.

All said and done, the constitutional imperative of achieving the two-thirds gender principle remains intact. Probably, this marks the defining realisation that notwithstanding the power games, patriarchy and all manner of negative stereotypes, the Constitution provides a solid ground for entrenching the principles of equality and inclusion in all spheres of life, including political representation, as an irreducible minimum.

Journalist and Asst Director at the Kenya National Commission on Human Rights