African women in media: Marking waves in radio
“Mostly ladies are known to be shy ... [too] shy to talk in public.”
This is a strange declaration from Bridget Nambah, a DJ and talk show producer at Tamale's Diamond FM. The 19-year-old from Ghana's Northern Region is fighting her own stereotyping. She has been broadcasting since high school, when she snuck into public speaking seminars to learn her craft.
“In Ghana here, most often ladies don't report,” she says.” [Producers] want the ladies to be comfortable. When they are sending out reporters, they are mostly sending out the males. A man can easily defend himself from danger but a lady cannot do that.”
While female journalists are becoming more common in urban centres like Accra, Tamale is still an outpost for traditional gender norms, says gender expert Safia Mousah. She says leadership qualities are not fostered in Ghanaian women, so they do not pursue professions like journalism.
“In our culture, the women always takes the backstage,” says Mousah, who works for the anti-poverty NGO, Action Aid. “She takes all the instructions.”
Women who are outspoken are deemed “deviant”, according to Mousah. She points to the lack of women in Ghanaian political life as a telling example of this. Female politicians are scrutinized harshly about everything from their hairstyles to their husbands; scrutiny from which their male colleagues are exempt.
“Looking at the very few women we have in leadership roles, in journalism, it's very clear that [society] is hard on them,” says Mousah.
Nambah credits her strong personality for her success.
“Generally in Africa, women are perceived to be relegated to the background”, says Akosua Kwartemaa, the female manager at Tamale's Fiila FM.
Since starting at Fiila nine years ago, Kwartemaa has seen a slow progression of gender equality in media.
“Of late, things are changing,” she says. “We feel, what a man can do, we can do and even do it better.”
There's so much more to Africa than predictable headlines about war, famine and AIDS. From Ghanaian beauty pageants to music in Malawi, Africa Without Maps provides a rare glimpse of life in Africa from Journalists for Human Rights interns on the ground.