Where are the Women? At home, not being assertive.

I arrived with 3 other Association for

Progressive Communications Africa Women project (AAW) delegates on

Monday morning to attend the Highway Africa conference in a raining

Grahamstown, South Africa.


I looked at the conference programme for Highway Africa and saw that

only 11 female speakers were listed out of fifty. This was very

disappointing – especially since Highway has been criticized in the

past because of the lack of women represented among speakers and

chairpeople. It’s an improvement, but not by much!


In today’s Open Source publication, the headline “Be assertive to have

a gender sensitive HA!” made me shake my head. Last year, women

protested the lack of women speakers – this was obviously not

“assertive” enough for the conference orgnisers. The statement implies

that the reason for the non-appearance of women on the agenda is, well,

our fault. It’s because we are too demure and coy.


Chris Kabwato is quoted as saying that “HA’s policy is to be gender

balanced in everything it does”. He then goes on to put the

responsibility of equal representation on women – not very gender

balanced. Perhaps I can offer the training services of my organisation

to elaborate on what it means to be gender balanced.


If the conference had only 11 black speakers among fifty, would Chris

Kabwato be asking black journalists to be more assertive in asking for

equal representation? Would we even be here this year, sitting in

sessions obediently listening to funders and CEOs tell us about media

in Africa?


I don’t need to demand my rights from HA – I have rights. It is not my

responsibility to make HA gender balanced, but the organizers'. There

are many female movers and shakers in the media sector in Africa, we

are in the minority, yes, but HA could play a role in challenging the

status quo. Judging from this year’s topics and discussions,

challenging the status quo is not what HA is about.


Look, here I am, being assertive.


Highway Africa Website

Responses to this post

If you would like to speak or present a workshop at Highway Africa Conference 2007 please let me know. Be assured we try hard to ask people to come on board. As people like Muthoni Wanyeki, Aida Opoku-Mensah, Anriette Esterhuysen...If the good people are invited and they cannot make what should I do? Ask yourself why the many women we approach are unable to make it to the conference? To reduce my efforts at making Highway Africa more representative to the statement "be more asserive" is rather unfortunate. Dig deeper into our past conferences and our efforts to date.
Posted on 11/29/2006 - 17:17 | Reply

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