Women in African media suffering from sexual harassment stay silent because of a fear of retaliation and a lack of faith that their organisations will do anything, according to a survey with 584 respondents in eight countries, published by WAN-IFRA’s Women in News.
“The research found that of the cases reported, organisations took action only 42% of the time. And even then, the most common response was to warn the perpetrator, followed by emotional support for the victim, dismissal of cases after review, and providing training for staff on sexual harassment.”
“Stamping out the vice is further complicated by the fact that two out of five times, the perpetrator is a person in authority.”
46.12% of respondents said they had witnessed at least one incident, while 16 per cent said they had witnessed five or more incidents.
56% of women said they had been verbally harassed, with 38% reporting physical harassment. For gender non-conforming individuals, one in two had been verbally harassed, and 36% had been physically harassed.
Among men, one in five had experienced verbal sexual harassment and about one in 10 had faced physical harassment.
The report quotes Nelly, who works in a newsroom in Zimbabwe, saying: “Universities and colleges are churning out graduates who are talented and conversant with the technology the media needs to survive, but six months after they’re being hired, they leave their organisations. They are leaving because the ‘boys’ club’ that rules the media has refused to change”.
Women in News, through its advisory partnerships in Africa, is working with 30 member organisations across eight countries to institute sexual harassment policies that provide clear reporting mechanisms to make newsrooms safer.
“Newsrooms need as much information and support as possible to ameliorate the challenges posed by sexual harassment within the workplace by colleagues and in the field by sources,” said WIN Advisory Manager Susan Makore.
“We have a long way to go before staff are convinced and comfortable that if there are incidents of harassment, they can report them and action will be taken without their further victimisation,” said WIN Africa Director Jane Godia.