Gender imbalance in Lango’s media industry 22 years later

By Isabella Olong

Lira – 26, March 2021: It has been 22 years since Frequency Modulation (FM) radios started broadcasting in Lango sub-region. The first radio station was Radio Lira 95.3FM.

Even from the very beginning, there were only four ladies working at the station which had hired 20 men.

This gender gap has remained visible up to date with several radio stations having as low as only two or even one female broadcaster. Even in press briefings (conference), the ratio of male to female reporters can be widely visible and can leave one wondering what is happening in a country where the ratio of men to women is 48% : 52%?

Without being judgmental, I sought to find out from the journalists themselves, the underlying reason as to why this gender gap has persisted despite mushrooming media houses and media training institutions.

In training institutions, lecturers are equally perturbed by the few females joining journalism as a profession. Mr Anthony Eteng is the center administrator and a lecturer at UMCAT Lira, he agrees on parental attitude.

In the last three years, UMCAT graduated five girls in 2017, four girls in 2018, eight girls in 2019 and seven girls in 2021. From the administrator’s point of view, they have put in place pull factors to sway young girls into joining the profession.

In Lira district, Radio Wa 89.8 FM has the majority of ladies she has hired, standing at nine (9) while Radio Rhino 96.1 FM has the least with only one (1) lady.

Alice Ataro Otoo is a parent in Ober in Lira City West Division. She said girl child education should see parents encouraging their daughters to do mass communication.

In Lango sub region, the salary scales of journalists range from as low as Uganda shilling 150,000 Uganda shilling 500,000.

But what has media houses put in place to address the fears being raised by parents? Mr Boniface Wendo Odongo is the station manager at 106.5 Shine Fm Oyam. He said they have only two female journalists and have good Human Resource Policies to protect female journalists.

Mr (Hon.) John Baptist Okello Okello who is the Chairman Lango Radio Owners and Managers Association (LAROMA) as well as well as the Executive Director of Dokolo FM Limited, shares with TND News’s Isabella Olong what the association is doing to address the issues of sexual harassment and low pay which has stood out as a discouraging factor for many female journalists.

“We as radio owners in Lango do not encourage sexual harassment…,” adding: “Sometimes the sexual harassment are not brought to the attention of management unless it gets out of hand but we encourage our female employees to come out and let us know so that we take action.”

Mr John, on low payment, responds that “everybody is paying according to where you’re” and that “the salaries of our staff are way too low.”

According to him, “he thinks because of the economy”. “You have a radio station that should raise its funding from advertisements and sometimes this does not meet our expectations.”

In her article published in Global Voiceson May 15th 2020 entitled: “Women journalists in Uganda carry double burden with online attacks and harassments,” Sandra Acheng, a female online blogger said: “These ongoing threats have led women journos to withdraw from public discourse, leaving the journalism profession dominated by men.”

This means that the problem is taking on new dimension and calls for adaptive measures.

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