An all -African conference on Gender and Media opened today in Kigali, Rwanda, to debate ways of redressing challenges facing African female journalists at the workplace across Africa.
The three day conference 'Empowering African Women Journalists: Stepping Up to the Challenge of Gender Equality' is organised by the Federation of African Journalists (FAJ) with the support the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ), the Ministry of Information of Rwanda and the Norwegian Foreign Ministry.
Journalists and their unions' leaders, diplomats and African and international policy makers will discuss a wide range of issues, including pay gap between genders and working conditions contained in the Action Plan drafted by the IFJ Gender Council.
The President of the Federation of African Journalists, Omar Faruk Osman, said the conference is timely and shows the determination of African journalists' leaders to overcome the present challenges facing African female journalists.
"These pressing challenges are best captured in the theme of the conference and the appropriate response requires a sound understanding of the pressing issues of women journalists both on the home front and in news rooms across Africa," said Osman. "Discrimination in pay and poor working conditions remain a reality in media houses and news rooms, especially against female reporters."
Addressing the conference, the President of the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ), Jim Boumelha, welcomed the dynamism and diversity in African journalism. He noted that issues facing female journalists the world over twenty years such as the pay gap are still around and called for renewed energy to end inequality.
"Decent work challenge is more profound for women than for men," said Boumelha. "The pay gap legislation has failed to suppress the inequality which has proved resistant to redress. It is time for every one's contribution to bring down the edifice of injustice."
In her message to the conference, the UN Women Executive Director, Michelle Bachelet, supported the conference's goal to empower women in African media and to enhance their leadership in all spheres.
"African media partnership is essential to the success of 'Africa United against Violence against Women' campaign which is part of the UN global campaign to end violence targeting women by 2015," said Ms Bachelet. "You are the voice of the silent and the champions of the forgotten."
Kamilla H. Kolshus, First Secretary at the Norwegian Embassy in Uganda, told the conference that Norway believes in gender equality, media freedom and the promotion of women and supported the conference's aim to achieve these goals.
The conference was officially opened by the President of the Rwandan Senate, Dr. Vincent Biruta, who called for better representation of women in Rwandan media to reflect the progress achieved in other sectors of the national n the promotion of women in shaping the destiny of Rwanda.
"Media should be viable sectors where women can thrive in positions of leadership, in addition to by-line, voices and images," said Dr. Biruta.
The Rwandan Minister of Cabinet Affairs in the Prime Minister's Office, Protais Musoni, committed to implementing the conference's agreed action plan, saying that gender equality will add to the development of the country and will be part of Rwanda Media Reform process, which is currently in progress.