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Almost half of women in African media sexually harassed, study finds

Women working in media organisations in the continent are twice as likely to experience workplace sexual assault than men, and forty per cent of perpetrators are persons in authority.

Almost half of women working in media in Africa have been sexually assaulted at work, a study by the World Association of News Publishers (WAN-IFRA), Women in News initiative and the University of London found.

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The study’s findings are staggering with 47 percent of women respondents saying they have been sexually assaulted at work.

Harassers often don’t feel they need to hide their actions, the study found, with abusers acting with seeming impunity. Forty-six per cent of media workers had witnessed at least one incident, with 16.5 percent stating they had seen five or more cases.

There is a power dynamic between women and harassers in positions of power. In four out of ten cases, persons in authority are the perpetrators of sexual harassment. They are either direct supervisors (21.5 percent) or people from higher management (19.5 percent).

But managers are victims of sexual assault too. More than half of the 32 managers the researchers interviewed had been sexually harassed. Only three reported this.

Only 30 percent of the incidents were reported, and the study found the fear of reprisal is the most common reason why many women choose not to report the harassers. Lack of faith in the organisation’s management and awareness of reporting systems are also among the other factors why many sexual harassment cases remain unreported.

The news organisations took action in only 42 percent of cases that were officially reported.

“The media industry in Africa has a sexual harassment problem, but to date, there has been a lack of credible data and research to guide interventions,” the report said, adding that the data will be a benchmark for measuring change.

The research included online surveys and interviews of some 584 media professionals from eight countries in Africa, namely Botswana, Malawi, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe, as well as additional interviews with 32 media executives from those countries.

Sexual harassment in the media came under the spotlight and has been researched widely, particularly after the #MeToo movement against sexual violence and abuse. The report says, however, the studies mainly focused on the West, while the Global South couldn’t receive the same attention. The study aimed at filling this gap that has been a significant impediment to a healthy media industry.

“Sexual harassment is a global societal problem, and WIN views it as such. Evidence from this research shows that the culture of sexual harassment needs to change regardless of country,” the report read.

“Our mission is to advance and establish stable media environments that embrace equality in content and in the way people are treated, regardless of gender. This cannot be achieved if sexual harassment of any kind is tolerated.”

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