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Case for more women investigative journalists

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Newsrooms across the country are dominated by men and to balance this huge investigative gender gap, the Women Radio Centre in Arepo Ogun State organised its first annual Female Investigative Reporting Training. Chinyere Okoroafor, who participated in the training, reports

The big, red radio mast and towers at No 37 Beachland Road, Arepo, Ogun State makes the one-storey building behind it difficult to miss: pedestrians or motorists can see it from miles away. It is the most visible landmark of what the building is: the Women Radio Centre (WRC), an initiative of St. Ives Communications and supported by the MacArthur Foundation.

St. Ives Communications also operates WFM 91.7 – Sub-Saharan Africa’s first female-oriented radio station – on the premises. The station is owned by the duo of Dr Babatunde Okewale and Toun Okewale-Sonaiya. The building is also the venue for WRC’s first Female Academy training for female journalists on investigative reporting from the woman angle, which held last week.

Inside the compound, inter-locked cement tiles lead to the building’s blue, transparent double glass door. Beyond that is the white, tiled and well-lit training room upstairs where 20 female journalists from across the country gathered for week-long, all-expenses paid comprehensive investigative reporting training.

A slim, jovial woman welcomed everyone and introduced herself as Omozele Umoren – WRC’s Projects Officer. She passed a wireless microphone around for participants to do the same. Okewale-Sonaiya also introduced herself and congratulated the 20 selected applicants from the six geo-political zones across Nigeria. She noted that 810 journalists applied, nine of whom were from outside Nigeria.

Why investigative training for women

Besides guiding participants through the inverted pyramid of news writing, Okewale-Sonaiya also explained why the training was woman-focused. She said the aim was to train young female reporters to meet up with current global needs in journalism, which will directly impact positively on Nigerian society. She explained that she was only interested in women’s stories that are celebratory and underreported, urging participants to use the opportunity to promote women and produce stories that would amplify the voices of Nigerian women across the country “because only a woman can truly tell a woman’s story”.

Okewale-Sonaiya said: “We have gathered experts who are the best in the profession and our goal is to raise the next generation of female investigative journalists. There are 13 faculties in total and I would advise that you suck out everything in them.

“It is hoped that at the end of the training, you will commit to unearth and uncover those stories that affect women and girls, with the overall goal of amplifying the voices of women,” she added.

According to the Global Gender Gap Index (GGGI) 2022 rankings, the overall gender parity score rose from 67.9 percent in 2021 to 68.1 percent in 2022, considering the constant sample of 145 countries covered in both the 2021 and 2022 editions. Nigeria stands at number 123 of the GGGI 2022 with a score of 0.639.

What the training entails

The training kicked off with topics ranging from background to investigative reporting, investigative reporting from a gender perspective, safety tips, investigative journalism as leadership, pitching stories, journalism ethics, understanding the Freedom of Information (FoI) Act (What is FoI?) and its use, Open Source Intelligence, story conception and birth, data journalism and solution journalism, among others.

Opening the training with the first module was Assistant Professor, Department of Mass Communications/Director of Bayero University, Kano, Dr Suleiman Yar’Adua, who gave a comprehensive lecture on Introduction to Investigative Journalism, and ‘Metadata Protection for Female Journalists; among others. Multiple award-winning journalist and founder of online TV channel, TV360, Deji Bademosi, taught Experience Sharing of Investigative Journalism. Senior Lecturer, Lagos State University (LASU) Department of Journalism, Dr Raheemat Adeniran, took the topic Status of Women in Investigative Reporting.

Senior Lecturer, Faculty of Communication, Bayero University Kano, Dr Ruqayyah Yusuf Aliyu took participants on how to report on Human Rights Violation from Gender Perspective, and Being Legally Conscious in Investigative Reporting, among others.

Other facilitators included Dr Adamah Adamu of Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria; Executive Director/Chief Executive Officer, Wole Soyinka Centre for Investigative Journalism, Motunrayo Alaka; Editor and Publisher of Foundation for Investigative Journalism, Fisayo Soyombo; Director of the Lagos-based International Press Centre, Lanre Arogundade; Editor and Publisher of Wikki Times, Haruna Mohammed; Adenike Aloba of Dataphyte; and Associate Lecturer, Caleb University, Oludare Ogunyombo; among others.

The training, which ran from 8 to 12 August, was partnered by Bayero University, Kano and supported by MacArthur Foundation.

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