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Unfriendly Working Environment Forces Female Journalists Out of Newsrooms

Jesse Johnson James

I was promised 3,500 shillings (0.98USD) for each news story, an offer I took whole heartedly.

Rita Hope Acayo

Rita Hope Acayo, 24, turned her back from news reporting just barely three years after joining the media. The holder of Diploma in Journalism and Mass Communication from a Gulu based –East African Institute for Management Science first joined Acholi Broadcasting Services –ABS FM in 2017 as an intern and later a volunteer.

For her on –air talent, she was spotted and immediately recruited in 2018 to work with Gulu FM, a local radio station in Gulu City.

The excitement of getting a job escalated Acayo’s zeal, forcing her to not only remain on –air but also go to the field to collect news contents.

“I was promised 3,500 shillings (0.98USD) for each news story, an offer I took whole heartedly,” says Acayo who is now a petty businesswoman running a small retail shop at their home in Pece Vanguard Ward, Laroo –Pece Division in Gulu City.

Acayo recalls that her zeal to deliver began dwindling after the peanut she was entitled to, took forever to get to her pocket. “It would take three or more months for my boss to pay me and when he does, I only get half,” she reveals. Acayo finally hanged her pen and notebook in 2020 after grappling with little and delayed pay.

Acayo on Work challenges

Most media houses in Northern Uganda like any other part of the country survive on income generated from adverts, commercials and talk shows, though most media houses are left stumbling financially because they receive very few deals that cannot sustain them. To balance up things, the managers have cut the budget (mainly newsrooms) to enable them to stay afloat the business.

This has negatively impacted on the newsrooms since they are no longer facilitated, something being manifested in little and delayed pay, forcing the fainthearted female reporters like Acayo to run away. There are less than ten active female news reporters in Acholi Sub –Region and a handful in editorial positions.

For Eunice Anena, a former News reporter and presenter at Radio Pacis in Gulu, the newsroom was the opposite of what she anticipated while in school studying Journalism and Mass Communication at East African Institute for Management Science.

“I expected to join a newsroom full of encouraging and social colleagues, but that was the opposite,” says Anena who first joined the media (Speak FM) in 2016 and later moved to Radio King as an intern and volunteer in 2017.

Anena on Expectation

In 2019, Anena joined Radio Pacis in Gulu City as a News reporter and a presenter, something she termed as overloading. “I thought I would be given the liberty to choose which department I wanted to be in, that was not the case,” she says she became overloaded and later stressed hence, forcing her to quit the media in 2020.

Anena on Overloading

She is currently at home hoping to start up her own business, “for now I no longer want anything to do with the media,” Anena revealed.

Anena on Break

As the fainthearted female journalists are running away from the newsrooms over what they term as ‘unfriendly working conditions’, some have stood the rest of time and shall hopefully enjoy the fruits of their labor one day.

Seven years’ journey in the media have not been so smooth for Gloria Lalam of Radio Pacis in Gulu City, she stood the test of time and is one of the few female journalists who have remained active in the male dominated field. “Courage and passion is keeping me going,” says Lalam after a long day in the field gathering news.

Lalam on Work

Lalam, a holder of Bachelor’s Degree in Public Administration and Management started pursuing her career in the media in 2014 at Radio Maria as a show host and later moved to Radio Pacis where she began news reporting, anchoring and presentation.

Due to the unwelcoming working environment, “I ran away from Radio Pacis and joined Radio Rupiny (under Vision Group) but left out of frustration after I received a monthly pay of 80,000 shillings (22.44USD),” Lalam explained. She was later called back to go and resume work with Radio Pacis, “that is when I signed another contract.” 

Since then, Lalam has been juggling between her work in the newsroom and other hindrances like sexual harassment, family demand, tough sources, relationship, among others, a kind of persistence she says forced many of her colleagues to quite.

Lalam on Colleagues

Lalam advises that students (female) of journalism should be prepared right from schools so that they understand what the profession is all about, the kind of environment they are going into and brace for the challenges.

Lalam on Sensitization

Patience Aber, a content producer at Radio Rupiny and Wan Luo TV –subsidiaries of Vision Group, has seen it all during her thirteen years in the media, from a freelance journalist with Daily Monitor in 2008, Staff Reporter with Radio Rupiny in 2010, Sub –editor and news editor with Radio Rupiny, to her current position.

Patience Aber, a content producer at Radio Rupiny and Wan Luo TV relaxing after work

Aber observes that poor pay, long hours of working, bullying by male counterparts, has made it very hard for female journalists to keep up and excel hence, quitting becomes the easiest option.

Aber on Challenges

To keep up according to Aber, one has to sacrifice social and family life, relationship, among others. “Keep doing your best, improve on your story quality and quantity,” Aber advises those female journalists in junior positions and those planning to join the media.

Aber’s Advice

Post Author: admin

We empower. Change Narratives. Sustain
Female Journalists Forum – Uganda (FEMJOF-UGANDA) is a not-for-profit Community Based Organisation run by a group of female journalists in Gulu, Northern Uganda. We train, mentor, coach and counsel female journalists to change the narratives and become tomorrow’s great journalism leaders.

The idea to have a female media organization was established in 2019 when a group of about ten female journalists based in Gulu met and realized the shrinking number of female field journalists and the need to encourage female journalism students to join the newsroom with a purpose.

This dream to have a network and support system of female journalists based in Gulu was realized in 2021 when the organization was officially registered to not only bring together female journalists but advocate for a better working environment for female journalists, TRAIN , mentor, coach and counsel those that need a hand to reach their destiny.

In this, we envisaged better representation of women and female journalists in the media through a broad based approach to storytelling hence changing the traditional narratives of what and who a female journalist is. Currently, we have more than twenty members at different media houses and our mentorship programme at journalism institutions of learning is a step towards increasing this number in the newsrooms.

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