The critical need for changing gender imbalances in investigative journalism

By: Joy Letheba Malope and Excel Fongoma

Throughout society, men dominate in almost every position of power in the workplace — from CEO positions to intermediate management, while women are given fewer opportunities — even in investigative journalism.

Working as a female investigative journalist entails risky circumstances that could make one decide against the vocation. Even though that is the case, women are sometimes chastised for having to care for children and work in offices rather than being given the option to work in the field and produce in-depth journalism — an area where they are not given the opportunity to demonstrate their talent and ability.

These were the issues which were spoken about at the 18th edition of the African Investigative Journalism Conference in a session titled, Mainstreaming women’s voices in investigative reporting.

Challenges including abuse, lower wages and inequities in gender stereotypes are among other problems that women are confronted with. However, the panel of women speakers said that it is up to women to break the cycle and address these problems.

Adenike Aloba, managing editor at Dataphyte explained that communities and newsrooms need to be educated about gender balance and women have to be respected and treated the same as their male counterparts.

Aloba said: “Gender balance needs to be taught to society and in all media organisations. We need to empower women.

“It’s important to increase women’s confidence and self-esteem. Given that women are [now] leading the field of investigative journalism. Women who are interested in the field should be granted the opportunity to improve their skills.”

Sandrine Sawadogo, investigative journalist and member of the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists in Burkina Faso said that despite these challenges, she believed in herself and the role she was supposed to play in the news industry. Though threatened by unknown enemies trying to prevent her from doing her work as an investigative journalist, Sawadogo further explained that videos of her on the job had been photo-shopped into explicit imagery and sent to her family.

“Videos of false charges were released, delivered to my spouse, and even discovered in my in-laws’ possession, but that did not prevent me from succeeding in my work. Instead, I was able to look into additional tales and speak for others who couldn’t speak for themselves,” Sawadogo concluded.


Edited by Tshegofatso Mathe and Catherine White