Women in African-based news organisations are twice more likely to experience sexual harassment than men.
World Association of News Publishers (Wan-Ifra) Women in News’ latest report covering eight African countries shows 56 per cent of women suffered both verbal and physical sexual harassment.
Comparably, 24 per cent of men faced verbal sexual harassment and 15 per cent, the physical form.
A total of 584 media professionals from Botswana, Malawi, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe filed the online survey on sexual harassment in the workplace carried out between July and November, 2020. Another 32 media executives were interviewed on the same.
Women were most subjected to verbal sexual harassment with Kenya leading with 79 per cent, followed by Zambia (66 per cent) and Uganda (63.1 per cent).
In Malawi, 57.8 per cent of the women suffered the same, Tanzania (47 per cent), Zimbabwe (41 per cent) and Rwanda (40.7 per cent)
In Botswana, more women experienced physical sexual harassment (48 per cent) than those who reported having been sexually harassed physically (40 per cent).
Overall, the executives are the main perpetrators (41 per cent) of the sexual harassment, followed by colleagues (38 per cent) and news sources (17 per cent).
The managers are neither immune to the harassment. Fifty per cent of the 32 executives interviewed said they had been victims of sexual harassment but only nine per cent reported.
There are, however, two major barriers to ending sexual harassment in the newsrooms – fear and top leadership’s blindness to the issue.
The 44.9 per cent of the interviewed media professionals cited fear as the main reason barring them from reporting. Only three per cent of the managers said they discuss the issue in senior management meetings. For the 59 per cent, it has never been discussed.
Warm his bed
But when the harassment is reported, media organisations take action 42 per cent of the time.
“When my only female colleague left for another media house last October, my editor told me to be assured of her position; I needed to warm his bed. I quit after being harassed for ‘running to HR’. I felt so helpless and had no one to go to and ended up being demoted. I am still affected five years later,” said a respondent from Kenya as quoted in the report.
Another from Rwanda noted: “I am not alone in our organisation. We are harassed and afraid to denounce the perpetrators for fear of losing our jobs! Some of us accept it just to keep our positions!”
“We need to raise awareness and go beyond creating policies that are usually not fully implemented,” said one from Botswana.