“In my experience, there have been instances where I had to miss out on opportunities because of the challenges of being a nursing mother”, says Aisha Ahmad, a journalist practising in Kano state.
Ahmad, while speaking on the sidelines of the just concluded Promoting Democratic Governance Project (PDGP) training organised by the International Centre for Investigative Reporting (ICIR) with support from the United States Embassy, Abuja, noted that motherhood has a noticeable impact on the career move for women journalists.
Ahmad, who was a participant in the training aimed at strengthening the capacity of investigative journalists to promote transparency, accountability, and good governance in Nigeria, explaining the impact said: “There was a project I was supposed to attend that required me to travel to a location outside of Kano.
“However, due to the logistics and the fact that the provisions at the destination didn’t allow me to take my baby along, I had to make the difficult decision not to go. There have also been times when I hesitated to even apply for certain opportunities because I knew that the circumstances might not allow me to participate. So I wouldn’t even know if I could have secured the slot or not.”
The nursing mother, who is a journalist with AllNews Nigeria media organisation, said she hesitated before applying for the ICIR Promoting Democratic Governance Project but eventually did when the centre assured her it was all-inclusive. She could come along with her baby.
“Earlier, I was going to take him (my child) to my mum, but something came up that she wouldn’t be available. I called one of the organisers – programme officer – and told her I had a baby. She said I could come with the baby. I was very happy when The ICIR agreed that I come with the child.”
In its call for applications for the programme, The ICIR strongly encouraged qualified female journalists to apply. Ahmad commended The ICIR for the inclusivity, adding that the venue was also conducive for women with children.
“Everything was fine because the room was spacious and beautiful. I was able to look after the baby there. The venue was also okay. If I didn’t want to go to the room, I could stay with the baby close by.
“I thank The ICIR; this is very comfortable,” she said.
Female journalists worldwide face challenges when it comes to balancing their careers with motherhood. According to a report titled “Where Are the Mothers? in which approximately 20 working mothers in newsrooms shared their diverse experiences, many nursing mothers have had to stop breastfeeding earlier than planned due to the pressures of managing both work and breastfeeding.
The report published by Nieman reports opened with, “If news organisations want to attract and retain millennial journalists, newsrooms must better meet the needs of parents with young children—and create better work-life balance for everyone.”
While some newsrooms provide support for nursing mothers, women who find themselves in such supportive environments also need to invest additional effort to achieve their breastfeeding goals.
Because of women’s aspirations to balance work and family responsibilities, a 2015 University of Kansas study revealed that female journalists were at a higher risk of experiencing burnout and were more likely to plan to leave the industry compared to their male counterparts.
The programme officer of the Centre, Ayisat Abiona, said The ICIR pays serious attention to Gender Equality and Social Inclusion (GESI) without bias in all our projects. Our approach to Gender Equality and Social Inclusion (GESI) addresses unequal power relations between different social groups. It focuses on the need for action to ensure equal rights, opportunities, and respect for all individuals regardless of their identity as a Media organisation.
“Gender balance is also considered in the final selection process of all participants, including CSO representatives, journalists, and resource persons involved in our projects. During our previous initiatives, we ensured that participants were qualified people of diverse races and identities, with priority given to female journalists in our programmes to overturn the professional gender barrier and foster inclusiveness”, she added.
The PDGP training was held in Kano state between Tuesday, September 12 and Thursday, September 14, and was organised specifically for journalists in the North-Western.
At least 20 journalists were trained by facilitators on investigative journalism, using the Freedom of Information Act, reporting in hostile or unsafe environments, and sensitising journalists on safety and security, among other topics.