By Jariatu S. Bangura
Women in the Media Sierra Leone (WIMSAL) has on Friday ended its Annual General Meeting (AGM) and elected new President, together with other executive members at the Atlantic Lumley Hotel in Freetown.
The team of this year’s AGM was geared towards positioning female journalists to promote women in politics.
In attendance were key personalities from Rokel Commercial Bank, United Bank for African (UBA) and Leone Rock Metal Group as main sponsors.
Parliamentary Female Caucus President, Hon. Veronica K. Sesay, representative of the All People’s Women Congress, past and present executive members of WIMSAL, were also present at the AGM.
Newly executive members, who went unopposed, were announced by the Sierra Leone Association of Journalists Electoral Committee (SLAJEC).
Delivering her keynote address, Dr. Sylvia Olayinka Blyden urged that WIMSAL should support women with sound character and able to stand out and address issues that pertain women in society.
She said elections are around the corner and that there might be women that would approach WIMSAL for support by making their voices be heard.
She said since WIMSAL was founded in the wakes of the 2007 general elections, and now having the 2023 elections just around the corner, it is but necessary to acknowledge that women have been left behind in terms of political representation and the need to support them.
She noted that gender equality means that both men and women are the same and can perform the same duties and described politics as a game of interest that sweeps one to follow the wrongs without realizing it.
She noted that there are good and bad men as well as women in politics, but that female journalists should be careful in choosing women who are competent, patriotic and of substance.
The new unopposed President of WIMSAL, Eastina B. Taylor, commended the outgone President and her team for a job well done, despite the challenges faced and promised to continue the fight for equality and maintains the unity of members of WIMSAL.
She said together with her executive, they will endeavour to empower other women in the media and also create space and inclusiveness for all members.
President of the Sierra Leone Association of Journalists, Ahmed Nasralla said WIMSAL should focus it fight in promoting women issues and women in politics and forget about the forgone challenges.
He said women are underrepresented in Sierra Leone, both in politics and the media landscape, even though women constitute about 50 percent of the country’s population.
He said a survey conducted by Global Media Monitoring project shows that 54% of women are protagonist of domestic violence which highlights the need for a better representation of women.
He further states that women in the media also faced challenges as reported by the International Women’s Media Foundation survey which shows the level at which they suffer from domestic violence, sexual harassment, physical assault and verbal abuse.
“These forms of violence deterred most women and get them shy away from the media landscape. The only way one could stop this is by having more women in politics and also the resources to train and widen the scope of their knowledge. Also, there is the need to create an open space for them and allow them to take their full potential of their breathing space and fight gender stereotypes,” he said.
Outgone President of WIMSAL, Femi Jarreth Coker said women need to brace up should they need to be in parliament or anywhere.
She noted that the hate is too much among women folks and that even though women consist of about 52%, yet they are under-represented.
She urged all female colleagues to be focused and patient in doing their work diligently to compete with their male colleagues.
She commended all colleagues that have worked with her during her three years tenure and also sponsors that have helped along the way and promised to give her support always to WIMSAL and the new executive.
Chairman of Media Reform and Coordinating Group (MRCG), Dr. Isaac Sowa said studies after studies by MRCG, SLAJ and other organizations show that the number of women within the media is not at the level they want to be and when it comes to leadership and managerial positions, it is a different case.
He stated that the theme is within the arena of politics, considering the upcoming elections but that it should be noted that promoting those women should start with those in the media system.
He said the country is lagging behind when it comes to women taking higher positions as compared to other countries in the region.
Chairman of the Independent Media Commission, Dr. Victor Massaquoi said he has been a long standing supporting member of WIMSAL, thus commending the effort made so far.
He noted that despite all the challenges faced by WIMSAL, they have been able to pick out some admirable women in politics in the past years.
He said studies conducted by IMC and IAMDEV shows that women in politics are disproportionately disadvantaged on television, radio and newspaper, women in the media are poorer than compared to the men and less than 5% of women are running radio and television in Sierra Leone.