Last Updated on: 26th September 2022, 04:40 pm
There are a total of 15 local Radio stations in the Lango sub-region, many online media platforms with their writers (Journalists) and correspondents also working with some national media outlets.
By Acipa Doreen
Lango – Sept. 26, 2022: At 36 years of age, Desire Amongi Ongom is currently the station manager at Hot Fm in Amolatar district, Northern Uganda.
She is among the few female journalists in Uganda to hold such a position in a patriarchal –oriented media space where men occupy most of the strategic positions.
“Being a female, it is very difficult for these people to give us positions, it is very hard to find a female radio manager or a female heading a department in most places I have been,” Amongi narrates.
As someone who started her career when she was already a graduate, with a bachelor’s degree in journalism and mass communication, Ocen always had the qualifications to occupy the space she is in now.
However, at the beginning of her career, the mother of three had to move to four different radio stations, one after the other, because the alternative was to yield to sexual demands from her employers.
“The first employer who gave me an opportunity wanted to harass me sexually to give me a position in his media house. I went asking for a job with my documents, and then the next thing he asked was to sleep with me,” says Amongi.
According to Amongi, she could only manage to work for two weeks before she was handed a letter of dismissal not because she flouted any provisions in her employment contract but for rejecting her employer’s sexual advances.
She faced a similar predicament in her second job but persevered, because she really wanted to be a journalist. When she went to her third workplace, things worked out for a while, until there was a new manager.
“At the third place I went to, a new manager who came and found us on board wanted to sleep with all the girls for favoritism,” she says.
“I refused to sleep with the new manager and was demoted. I was a programs manager,” she adds.
From programs manager, the new manager relegated Amongi to marketer and newsroom reporter.
Sexual harassment is an offence according to the penal code act of Uganda and the Labor Act of 2006 as amended, but despite legal provisions, this remains a common vice and is often underreported by the victims most often for fear of stigmatization.
Uganda has over 250 radio stations, over 10 TV stations, with Lango Sub-region, Northern Uganda having 15, a number of dailies and a raft of online or digital newspapers, a few are government owned but majority are privately owned. It is here that Amongi draws the fault line.
In her opinion, it is privately owned media houses that exhibit total disregard for fundamental human rights and labor related rights and this she says is mostly inflicted on the female journalists.
When it is not sexual harassment, Amongi says female journalists, have to deal with the prospect of getting pregnant and giving birth while still holding a job.
In Uganda, section 55 of the employment Act 2006 states, a female employee shall, as a consequence of pregnancy, have the right to a period of sixty working days leave from work on full wages hereafter referred to as “maternity leave”, of which at least four weeks shall follow childbirth or miscarriage.
The act adds that a female employee who becomes pregnant shall have the right to return, to the job which she held immediately before her maternity leave or to a reasonably suitable alternative job on terms and conditions not less favorable than those which would have applied had she not been absent on maternity leave.
For Amongi, the law did not provide much protection, when she had her first child.
“I was operated on and I was expected to come back to work after one and half months. At that time the wound had not properly healed. So you have the pain, you are nursing the child but you also want to secure your job, you don’t want to lose it, you have to carry the child and go to the field, so it’s kind of not easy,” she says.
While Amongi persevered to make it to the top, Joy Christine Ameri, a 28-year-old mother abandoned her journalism career and joined the Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) world, after she was suspended for going to work with her 8 months old son in 2017.
By the time of Ameri’s suspension, she had faced so many challenges at work; it no longer made sense to serve out her sentence.
Ameri had a difficult first trimester, so she asked for leave but was turned down.
“I asked for leave and it was turned down, but I was sick for 3 months and before I realized my position was given to someone else. I sat home because I had no options,” she narrates.
Being a single mother struggling to raise a child made her come back, to ask for a job after giving birth. Luckily enough, it was given to her but still it did not go well for Ameri.
She had to stop breastfeeding her son at 8months so that she could continue with the media work, but was still suspended for carrying her sick son to the work. Click here to watch more from Ameri.
Much as female journalists have long played an instrumental role in uncovering and reporting on cases of abuse, harassment and torture many suffer silently and maybe change the work station.
Sarah Ejang is the station supervisor and the news editor at Kyoga FM. Ejang was denied maternity leave in 2019 when she was working for another radio station in the district and was only lucky she was able to get a new job at Kyoga FM.
“I was denied leave and work until the day I gave birth,” she says. After giving birth, her employer just gave Ejang three months of leave without pay.
When asked how she navigated the challenge, Ejang explained that she wanted the job, so she worked until she could find another place to work. She also saved as much as she could to hedge against the day when responsibilities got her fired.
Lucky for her, she got a new job at Kyoga FM where her employer is a woman. Ejang says that now her one big challenge is the community, which does not always trust female journalists.
Ejang said women love their jobs given the situation in every other work and besides being mothers, she disclosed that women are very active at work.
Amongi says when she was first elevated to the position of a station manager, she faced hardships in leading a nearly 95% male dominated team of employees who initially scolded her and doubted her leadership acumen with some wondering why a woman would be entrusted with such a key position. That aside, there came in family pressure where she had to go for several months without seeing her family.
The pressure and challenges are not only internal according to Amongi. In Her career she had to deal with difficult sources while in the field some of whom would make lewd and sexist comments while some went as far as asking for sex in exchange of information.
“Many people do not recognize journalism as a profession, they think it’s all about playing music and jingle, they undermine our profession, they think we are prostitutes,” She adds.
The difficult media terrain that imposes harsh working conditions seems not to be a Uganda problem only, but a global issue.
According to a research done by Reuters, only 23% of the top editors across the 200 major outlets are women, despite the fact that, on average, 40% of journalists in the ten markets are women.
Ray of Hope
In spite of these bottlenecks, Amongi sees a ray of hope and is enthusiastic of a brighter future for female journalists in the country and for her, it was about resilience and passion that kept her a float of her profession.
With a female director for a boss at her current media house where she is currently the station manager, Desire is delighted things could be changing for the better. She says more female journalists are practicing and practicing.
She cites the case of her niece, who has always seen Amongi as a role model and studied journalism to be like her aunt. By clicking here, you will listen to Amongi telling more.
Ejang urged the management of the radio stations to trust female workers with managerial posts to exercise their capabilities.
A male voice
Leslie Nek Ojom Nek, the human resource manager of Radio QFM in Lira City advocates for media pluralism, safety, freedom and independence of female journalists. Take a listen by clicking here.
Sarah Awor Angweri, the female workers’ representative for Lira City Council pledges to support female journalists in their work because there’s no specific job for a specific sex.
“I pledge to always advocate for the rights of female journalists because as female workers, there are some sensitive matters that needs only female journalist for us to confide in and share with them because we feel they understand us best when we tell them, so these women are very vital in our society and I Pledge maximum support,”Awor attributes.
Click here to listen to Awor Angweri.
There are a total of 15 local Radio stations in the Lango sub-region, many online media platforms with their writers (Journalists) and correspondents also working with some national media outlets. There are also dozens of freelance journalists.
Out of the 51 ladies working at different Radio stations in Lango sub-region, only one is a station manager; not more than four are News Editors, two are Talk Show Hosts and the rest are reporters and presenters.
List of Radio Stations and Their Staffing According to Gender
|SN||MALE||FEMALE||TOTAL NUMBER OF STAFFS|
|2||LBS FM, DOKOLO||25||1||26|
|9||VOICE OF LANGO||12||6||18|
|11||VOICE OF THE GOSPEL FM||14||6||20|
|13||G. FM OTUKE|
This story was done with funding from the Media Freedom Committee Grant.