Four universities in Kenya have been enrolled into a mentorship programme for upcoming female journalists that being funded by the United States Embassy in Kenya.
The Female Journalists Mentorship Programme, now in its third phase, aims to nurture talent among students to increase the presence and quality of women in the industry.
The enrollment of students from Moi, Maasai Mara, Masinde Muliro and Technical University of Mombasa to the programme brings to six the number of universities that have taken part so far.
At least 40 students from the four universities will take part in the third phase, the largest cohort since the programme was initiated in September 2018, with University of Nairobi (UoN) students.
The second phase, with Maseno University’s journalism students, ended in November 2019.
In the programme, the students are paired with established and successful female career journalists from various media houses.
The mentors equip and empower them with the necessary communication, leadership and life skills for successful careers in the media.
“Mentors have been like big sisters to the mentees, giving advice and support beyond the class set-up and providing life skills,” said Ms Josephine Karani, chairperson of the International Association of Women in Radio and Television (IAWRT, which is executing the programme.
“The mentorship is becoming bigger and better,” Ms Karani said, expressing confidence that the programme will help produce some of the best journalists in the country and beyond.
She told the students; “The distinguished mentors who will walk with you in this journey have emerged victorious, and so will you. You will be the next big thing in the field, in and out of this country.”
Daily Nation‘s Executive Editor Pamela Makotsi-Sittoni, who represented the Kenya Editors Guild at the launch at Maanzoni Lodge in Athi River on Friday, said the programme has the potential to increase the number of women journalists in Kenya.
She noted the need for balance, considering “serious inequalities” in the industry, with the landscape largely in favour of men.
“This country needs more female journalists. The world needs you so stay focused. Don’t get distracted.”
To help cure the general gender imbalance in media reporting, the Executive Editor said, Nation Media Group set up a gender desk at the Daily Nation.
Acting Deputy Chief of Mission a the US Embassy, Ms Kathleen Lively, said the successes of previous cohorts have demonstrated that the capacity to change lives and launch careers.
“The programme is a lot of hard work for both the mentors and mentees but it results in real professional and personal growth for young women,” she said.
“The outcomes [have been] true empowerment of young female journalists and formation of strong bonds between two generations of Kenyan women in media.”
A former Chief Information Officer of the United States Department of State, Ms Lively said the mentorship has the added benefit of enabling women to help others succeed in a traditionally male-dominated field.
“In the media and in all public spheres, we need female voices and perspectives. The reality is that women still have larger hurdles to overcome in order to succeed in the workplace,” she said.
“I believe women must support one another where they can. Women must have equal representation in the telling of the most important stories of the day.”
She said America is keen on protecting press freedom in Kenya and investing in strengthening media effectiveness, including supporting the guild with a grant of $170,000 to expand media freedom through trainings that promote quality and ethical journalism.
“Societies built on good governance, strong civil societies and an open and free media are more prosperous, stable and secure, and a free and open society is anchored in ethical and balanced media coverage that promotes accountability and sparks public debate,” she said.
She added, “The United States will continue to support every possible effort to empower the media in Kenya to engage, enlighten and inform the public.”