#91Voices: WIN’s 2021 Africa cohort reflects on nine months of leadership training

On November 26, 2021, 91 women from eight countries in Africa graduated from the WAN-IFRA Women in News (WIN) Leadership Accelerator programme. 

While the graduation ceremony was virtual, the results of the nine-month training were tangible and the experience transformative for the journalists and editors from Botswana, Kenya, Malawi, Rwanda, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

The women shared their journey of change, rediscovery and hope after going through the intensive coaching, mentorship, learning and networking sessions that make up the Accelerator programme.

“My WIN journey has literally changed my life. When this programme started in March, it found me in a dark place,” said Mary Muoki from Kenya.

“The Accelerator not only boosted my career, but also built my self-confidence and gave me belief in my professional abilities; I am good enough. I started the programme without a job, but I’m now a news editor and show host.” 

Muoki’s sentiments echoed those of her cohort, some of whom documented their experience here.

From Rwanda, Ineza Leontine said: “Through the different Accelerator training sessions and coaching, I learnt how to bridge the gaps in my career. I was able to influence my co-workers and impress my employer, who gave me a promotion from reporter to broadcasting production officer. I’m so proud of my achievements and the new skills I’ve acquired.”  

From Malawi, Fanny Kondowe said: “The WIN Accelerator programme has made me a different woman. I have benefitted from the training and wish I’d learnt what I know now when I was starting out. But knowledge never goes stale.”

From Zambia, Mercy Banda said: “I’ve become a better leader than I was before. Since I became a WINner, I’ve been elected president of the Livingstone Press Club and been admitted into a Zambia team of mentors. I encourage every woman journalist to join this programme because it’s an enriching journey.”

The graduation was graced by past WINners who shared the enduring impact the programme has had on their careers.

Beatrice Bandawe, who was in the Class of 2015, is now the Managing Editor of the Kiswahili daily, ‘Nipashe’ in Tanzania. In a rallying call to graduands to “do it afraid”, she shared her journey of audaciousness after the WIN training introduced her to a network of women who supported her quest for leadership.

“I got back to the office, worked hard, applied the lessons I picked up in the Accelerator, and within three years of completing the programme, I was promoted to my current position as managing editor.”

Further underscoring WIN’s impact on newsrooms, Collin Haba, the Managing Director of the English daily ‘New Times’ in Rwanda, said he has seen the transformative impact of the programme in his organisation.

“Those of us in leadership positions have to be more deliberate about getting more women into the newsroom. We can’t sit back and wait for others to think for us. In our partnership with WIN, we have seen our newsroom get to a point where we now have more women than men. We must educate, engage and inspire action in the push to get more women into leadership.”

It was a heartwarming outpouring of positivity, capped by a keynote speech from Hon Chushi Kasanda, the Zambian Minister for Information and Media, who recognised the work that still needs to be done to get more women to the decision-making table.

“It is gratifying to note that those who’ve gone through this programme have advanced in their careers, contributing to the growth of the media industry. To the women graduating today, join forces to ensure that we aggressively deal with the barriers women face in attaining positions of leadership,” she said.

The two-hour ceremony had representatives from the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida) and the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs (NMFA) who got to hear first-hand the impact that their organisations’ generous support has had on women in African media.

“WIN’s work is so important and fully in line with the Swedish strategy for human rights and freedom of expression, and also the Swedish feminist foreign policy. Women in media play a very important role as actors for change,” said Fredrick Westerholm, Sida Senior Programmes Manager and Specialist, Democracy, Human Rights and Freedom of Speech.

From NMFA, Harriet Berg, Director for Human Rights, Democracy and Gender Equality, said: “I’m impressed to hear the impact of the WIN Leadership Accelerator. Media diversity and freedom are important if we are to secure freedom of expression. We are proud to be part of the effort to increase women’s voices and leadership in more countries.”

The event marked the culmination of months of focus, dedication and teamwork as the programme ceremoniously sent out the 2021 WINners to change their slice of the media industry like hundreds of others before them.

“Each of you graduating today is the change we hope to see. We hope you make use of the skills, strategies and tools that WIN has equipped you with. Pay your learnings forward. We cannot wait to see what you do next!” said Melanie Walker, WIN Executive Director.

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