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#GIJN: female investigative journalists admit facing sexual harassment

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At this time when America and the entire world is coming to grips with issues of sexual harassment against women at work, female investigative journalists have opened up about being harassed in the cause of their duty.

Some female journalists among the 1100 participants here at the 10th edition of the Global Investigative Journalists Conference (GIJN) have been sharing their experiences, revealing that sexual harassment and unequal power in the newsroom are a common phenomenon in the global media world.

Marina Atoji, a female investigative journalist from Abraji, Brazil, said: “Sexual harassments occur in the newsroom and outside. In our newsroom, women are the major target and outside, the politicians are the main attackers. But we are developing a research now on how often and where women journalist are targeted”.

Ellen Hume, an American Journalist with 38 years of practice, said she has faced several sexual harassments.

Recalling one of the experiences, she said: “I was covering our congress which is our parliament, I was young and new in Washington, I had just come from California. One day, I went to interview a congressman. I was in an elevator, and the congressman I was trying to interview suddenly grabbed me and kissed me. I was so embarrassed. At that moment, I felt like just going away, to disappear. I pushed him away and laughed, just to diffuse the situation. But he later confessed to me that he was a substance abuser (cocaine addict) so he wasn’t in his right mind at that time. He later became better, but it was one of those experiences that throughout my career I had learnt how to handle.

“We have had the famous case of Anita Hill when she said she was sexually harassed, the world did not believe her because she did not complain at the moment. So many women do not complain when they are sexually harassed- they just pretend it didn’t happen, they push it away, they want to be professional so they just giggle it away. But now it’s very important to have solidarity, to have legal support. I think we have to improve the workplace”, she said.

Child care is another big challenge faced by female journalists, Nwape Kumwenda, Muvi television journalist from Zambia, said.
“I remember when I was 8 months pregnant with my son and we were at the peak of the election. There were too many acts of violence, and I was vulnerable at that time, but I had to tell the story cos if I don’t, no one will”.

Combining work with family can be very challenging, says, Bunmi Yekini, of Radio Nigeria. But her strategy is; “When am at home I don’t work. That has been my strategy and it has worked for me. It’s been challenging but I have been able to survive”.

Being in a profession dominated by men, how should women work with men without portraying patriarchy? Amina Salihu MacArthur Foundation Nigeria asked.

“There is no doubt that- Women make up a very small number of journalist, a lot of the challenges take place in the newsroom, said Anne Koch.



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