Yemisi Akinbobola is co-founder of African Women in the Media, a growing network that aims to inspire, support and empower African women working in the media worldwide. An award-winning journalist herself, Yemisi is tired of seeing African women portrayed by the media as victims.
“In my country, Nigeria, we often see a representation of women in the media as victims of domestic violence and subordinates to men. It’s important to demonstrate that we are a lot more than that, because the way in which media content represents society, dictates the roles that women will have in that society.
I have three young daughters, for whom I find it so important that they see themselves represented in the media in a variety of roles. I want them to know they can be a politician, they can be a scientist, they can be an artist, anything they want. They should not be pigeonholed into a very specific stereotypical representation of who African women are.
In 2016 I was looking for a community to guide me through a next step in my career, but I couldn’t find one. That’s why I started African Women in Media, as a Facebook group at first. We want to create an environment where African women in media are adequately represented, and give them the capacity to rise beyond the glass ceiling that prevents them from becoming leaders and media owners, particularly in African countries.
Over the past four years we organised a series of conferences and activities online. Through our African Women in Media Awards we’ve given seven African women the opportunity to produce the kind of stories that will get them recognition and that look beyond gender stereotypes. For example, 2019 award winner Mary Mwendwa from Kenya, was able to report a story about the role women play in violent extremism.
Right now we are starting the MediaPreneur Pitch Zone which invites women to pitch media start-up ideas. The winner receives an investment. By doing this we want to ensure that there are more women who own media organisations. Because those who own the media, can shape the narrative. The more women we have in leadership positions the more we can achieve our objectives of having equal representation free from stereotypes in media content.”