The Council further notes that men are central to most of the news stories in print (72 per cent) and electronic media (46 per cent).

In addition, it was found that most media organisations do not have a gender or diversity policy or strategies in the workplace to create gender balanced reporting, making it likelier that they will rely on male sources. 

James Ratemo Communications and Information Head at the Media Council of Kenya says journalists are often pressed for time and male sources are seen as the go-to experts.

TRAINING

“They want to find subjects who are readily available and typically don’t think about gender. They can easily find men who are willing to talk.” 

Having a gender balance in reporting must be intentional, says Ratemo.

“When we leave it to fate, males will always dominate.” 

To sensitise journalists on the importance of representation, the media council partnered with Unesco to train reporters across Kenya on gender mainstreaming. 

THE GOAL

By increasing women’s representation, the goal is that women like Claire Kinyanjui will have fewer obstacles to navigate in the workplace.

Kinyanjui, a lawyer and entrepreneur is on the database as an expert in the areas of security, peace, conflict and law. 

“Law is a male dominated field. I’ve had experiences where a guy was chosen over me,” she says. 

“I’m a woman and I’m petite so people [look at me and] think I’m not capable. All these things I’ve gone through show me that it’s not an even level playing field, and it may never be.”

'CALL IT OUT'

Kinyanjui joined the database a few months ago but has yet to be contacted about a speaking appearance or interview.

By participating in the Say-No-To-Manels initiative, she hopes to represent women in areas that are typically male-dominated, especially as some of her work centres around gender perspectives of peace and security issues.

Sambuli encourages people to “call it out” the next time they see a lack of women represented— by asking about it during the Q&A of a conference, tweeting or approaching the organisers. 

“It should be, and must become, absolutely uncomfortable to sit in any space where issues affecting one half of the Kenyan population do not have representation,” Sambuli says. 

TAKE PLEDGE

The Say-No-To-Manels organisers also encourage men and organisations to take a pledge that they will not participate or host all-male panels at conferences, in the media and boardrooms and when possible, recommend women instead.

The Kenyan movement to better represent women on panels coincides with an international movement to do the same.

The hashtag #AllMalePanels highlights events around the world where women experts are not present and resulted in similar databases of women experts being created in various other countries.

Jacky Habib is a 2016-2017 Media Fellow of the Aga Khan Foundation Canada at the Nation Media Group, Nairobi.

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