By Justina Asishana
Abuja – Threats, effects on mental health, lack of funding and limited collaborations and networks are some of the challenges faced by female investigative Journalists in Nigeria, and across Africa. To succeed, women in investigative journalism have
to work twice as hard as their male counterparts.
These were sentiments of five female investigative journalists, Justina Asishana; Joke Fayemi; Sharon Ijase; Adie Vanessa Offiong and Stella Ijaji, who opened up about the challenges they encountered in their careers at a panel discussion titled Spaces for Women in Investigative Journalism during the Africa Investigative Journalist Conference (AIJC) 2021.
Fayemi, head of Raypower FM in Kaduna, said she has struggled to balance her work and family life as a female investigative journalist who also heads a radio station. She said there were instances when her safety was threatened while she was carrying out her duties.
“There are many restrictions I face as an investigative journalist and sometimes I go to places knowing that I might be in danger. There was an instance when a lawmaker asked me to meet him at his hotel. I felt unsafe and decided to take a male intern with me to help me get the information to write my report,” she explained.
Justina Asishana, Niger state correspondent for The Nation newspaper, revealed that she often uses her own funds for the investigations due to lack of access to grants for investigative reports.
“I wish and hope we could have funds to carry out investigative reports. I don’t get funds for most of the investigative reports I work on. There are times when I get lucky and get a grant to carry out my investigations. Other times I go out of my way just to tell the story because most media organisations in this region do not have dedicated funds for investigations,” she said.
She added that threats and intimidation impacted female journalists who want to pursue investigative reports.
Offiong, reporter at CNN, and Ijase, from TVC, shared that there were instances when they had to take a step back from their investigations because these took a toll on their mental health.
“I went to Maiduguri some years ago to interview three women who were held captive by Boko Haram. Two had borne children with Boko Haram members and one recounted how he had been forced to watch as the militia killed her husband. I have not been able to write that story because each time I listen to the recordings, I get very emotional. It affected me that much,” said Offiong.
Ijase said she withdrew from the public spotlight while recovering from a mental health breakdown.
“When you are doing investigative stories, you put yourself in the story and it takes a lot from you mentally and gets to a point when you have to back off,” she said.
Iyaji, Managing Editor of the Daily Trust, said there were not a lot of women in investigative journalism because many female journalists are not prepared to put in the hard work and resilience required for investigative reporting.
“Editors usually has a choice between a man and a woman and should the editor be convinced that the man can cover the story well, why should that assignment be given to the woman? This simply means that women needs to prove that they are capable. Women investigative journalist need know that they have to work twice as hard as their male counterparts who are also vying for recognition and good positions,” said Iyaji.
The panelists further called for more funds to be made available for investigative journalism, particularly to support projects by women journalists who are willing to go into investigations. They stressed the need for organisations and networks to address the state of mental health among female investigative journalists.
Featured image: Members of the panel discuss challenges experienced by female investigative journalists in Nigeria.