Forty-seven (47) female Journalists attending a training of trainers’ refresher workshop on ‘gender equality and safety’ in Saly, Senegal, have called for media owners and managers to enact workplace policy on sexual harassment to discourage the practice in media organisations.
They asked that the policy should be posted at vantage places in the newsroom and other parts of the workplace to send a strong message that any uninvited, inappropriate advances, conduct or comment, regarding sex was a human rights violation and must not be tolerated.
The four-day programme organised by the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) provided the platform for the women to brainstorm on issues affecting their work as female journalists.
The trainers, drawn from the Western, Eastern, Southern Africa and Bhutan, had come out with a campaign checklist against sexual harassment some of which read “No is a full statement, “My workplace, my safe haven”, “Treat me with dignity” and “I deserve respect, don’t objectify me”.
Some narrated traumatic abusive experiences they had been through while others told stories about how they nearly gave up the profession at one time or the other because they were compelled to keep quiet out of fear of stigmatization.
They said, most often, the perpetrators went unpunished because many newsrooms lacked a policy on sexual harassment and the mechanism for reporting.
The female journalists agreed that it was a sensitive issue due to its strong cultural connotations in Africa and therefore required the strong support of everybody to significantly reduce the practice, which tended to stifle productivity.
Pa Louis Thomas I, Director of the IFJ Africa Office - headquartered in Dakar, Senegal, earlier opening the conference, spoke of increasing reported cases of sexual violence against women in the newsroom within the last decade.
He described as completely unacceptable the demand for sex for job, which had become rampant in recent times and underscored the importance of gender equality and safety of female journalists to quality journalism.
Pa Thomas I quoted Edmund Blake's assertion that “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing” and challenged men to stand behind the campaign to bring down the practice.
The IFJ pledged its unflinching support to the campaign against sexual abuse in newsroom and workplace to ensure the safety of female journalists across Africa and the world.