180 women, 10 countries: WIN wraps up the first round of Leadership Accelerator hubs in Africa

Photo: The final Africa cohort – Somalia and Zimbabwe – in session during the first round of Leadership Accelerator hubs.

On 5 May 2022, WAN-IFRA Women in News has concluded the first round of Leadership Accelerator hubs in Africa. The six, two-day sessions were held over two months with more than 180 journalists and editors from 10 African countries.

The sessions gave the 2022 cohort a chance to reflect on their leadership journey, network with their peers, and learn from the rich experiences of their coaches and country managers.

Journalists and editors who take part in the WIN Leadership Accelerator can expect to acquire new skills, and build their capacity to lead and transform their media organisations. The programme includes three rounds of leadership hubs, as well as intensive coaching, mentoring and training sessions.

A key talking point across all countries during the hubs were the barriers in the way of women’s rise to leadership and management positions in newsrooms. Culture, patriarchy and socialisation were highlighted as key hurdles.

“Women in many of our societies have been made to believe that men were born leaders and they were born to follow,” said one participant. “This misguided belief is perpetrated in our institutions. We hear and see it in churches, schools, newsrooms and even in government.”

This plenary discussion raised interesting and diverse perspectives and experiences from participants across the countries where WIN operates in Africa. These are Botswana, Kenya, Malawi, Rwanda, Tanzania, Uganda, Somalia, South Sudan, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

“Can we truly say women do not practice leadership in society? Aren’t we already leaders in our homes? We plan, we manage finances, we hire and fire help, and we delegate responsibilities. Perhaps what we lack are the skills to transfer these leadership traits that we display in the house into the workspace,” said another participant.

While the Leadership Accelerator hubs are aimed at provoking reflection on the barriers to career growth, they also engage participants in finding solutions and strategies that help them overcome these barriers. Peer mentoring is an effective tool in doing this. Here, participants are split into groups of two or three and asked to discuss a leadership dilemma. They learn from each other, share experiences and in the process build a bigger professional network.

When speaking about how they have overcome the obstacles in their path to the top, one group reported: “What has worked for us is a determination to succeed in the newsroom despite the hurdles. We are also committed to supporting and encouraging the women fighting for a seat at the table. To do this, you have to set goals, know your strengths and weaknesses, and stay focused. Examine yourself. And don’t take criticism personally – learn and grow from it.”

Another participant said: “The peer mentoring has introduced me to a fellow journalist from outside my country, and from her experience, I have understood the importance of learning from my mistakes and committing to do better. Her journey is incredibly interesting and inspiring, and I can’t wait to learn more from her as we continue with the programme.”

The intensive two-day training sessions covered a host of other critical topics. These included career road mapping, self-discovery, enhancing personal leadership and emotional intelligence, life and career planning, striking a work-life balance, and time management.

It has been a journey of learning, self-improvement and self-belief. The closing reflections shared by participants illustrated the early impact of the career-changing journey they are on. The nine-month WIN Leadership Accelerator programme has proven its transformative influence over the years – one in three women who progress through it get a promotion within six months of completion.

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