DRC: Female Journalists Overcome Barriers

Tuesday, December 21, 2010
Institute for War and Peace Reporting
Central Africa
Congo (Kinshasa)
PeaceWomen Consolidated Themes: 

Two female radio journalists working for a Goma-based station have significantly improved their skills and gained in confidence as a result of IWPR training in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, according to the director of the station.

DRC's conservative, male-dominated culture means that female journalists find it hard to be recognised as valuable staff members who can produce their own stories and go out reporting independently.

Key decisions in newsrooms are made by men and field reporting is considered inappropriate for women. In many instances, female journalists are reluctant to go off on assignments on their own.

RAO FM radio station has long relied exclusively on male reporters, confining its two female journalists, Esperance Nzigire, 28 and Lucie Bindu, 20, to news reading.

When they went off to do field reporting, they would always have to be accompanied by male colleagues.

But the training they received from IWPR – formal classroom tuition in June and several months of work on the IWPR radio programme Face à la Justice – has provided them with the skills and confidence to go out on stories on their own, according to station director Pasteur Mabutwa.

“We thought that male reporters would always have to accompany them, which kind of misses the point of sending them to the field. But little by little [after the IWPR training] we realised it was not necessary any more.

We've therefore added two fully independent reporters to our staff,” Mabutwa said.

“We thank IWPR for its dedication to developing our female reporters. They are an invaluable addition to our team now that they feel more confident and know their job well.”

For Mabutwa, there is a clear interest in having female reporters going out on assignments on their own, as they are able to report on subjects that are hard for male colleagues to tackle.

“Take the example of child soldiers,” Mabutwa said. “It is easier for women to talk to them. There is this maternal thing, which makes children feel much safer talking to women [than men].”

The journalists' colleagues have been generally supportive of their new roles, and have not tried to question the new responsibilities that they are taking on.

“They work much better now,” said Abdullah, a reporter at RAO. “They still need a bit of help with editing their reports, but they have no need for us to go into the field with them, to conduct interviews and so forth. I do consider both Espérance and Lucie our equals.”

Abdallah said there was no discrimination against Esperance and Lucie before, but they simply lacked skills and confidence.

“I am thrilled to hear from Esperance and Lucie's colleagues at RAO how much they have developed,” said Melanie Gouby, producer of Face à la Justice. “This has been evident from their work for Face à la Justice, but their male colleagues' recognition is no small achievement in the DRC.”

Melanie added that she hoped Esperance would soon take on further editorial responsibilities at her radio station.

She has already started to participate proactively during the editorial meetings at RAO, and is building the necessary skills to make regular contributions to Face à la Justice.

“We often use Face à la Justice as an example for balanced and professional reporting during our editorial meetings at RAO,” Esperance said. “The other male reporters are impressed by our work. That gives me confidence to voice my opinion on how best to approach this or that report during the meetings. And it makes me proud.”

Both women explained that they felt people within the IWPR team listened to them, and considered their views within the scope of the project.

“I love working on Face à la Justice because our team is exclusively female, apart from Charles [the local producer], and that makes me feel comfortable,” Lucie said. “I know Charles and Melanie are here to help me improve, not judge me if I don't know how to do something.”

Esperance will be travelling to The Hague in February to report on the Bemba trial for IWPR.