Learning to put women front and centre of my reporting,

Before I became an African Women Journalism Project (AWJP) Fellowship, I rarely bothered to take an in-depth look at the impact the COVID-19 pandemic was having. I usually reported on the events as they happened and did not bother to dig deeper to find out why things were happening the way they were, how people were coping or not coping. I rarely bothered to try and explain anything about the pandemic and just did straight cut news. No explainers and sometimes, no context.

Since I became an AWJP Fellow, l have received training and mentorship that has enabled me to add more insights into my reports on the COVID-19 pandemic and how it is impacting on different members of the society especially women and marginalised groups. I have, for the first time, been able to see there is more to this pandemic and its impacts than just the people getting sick, the attempts being made by the authorities to alleviate some of the most  pressing problems such as hunger, health care and even education.

I have started using the skills l have learnt in other reporting assignments that l have undertaken which are not related to the pandemic. I have written stories about the financial stand of Women during COVID-19 lockdown, malnutrition, schools and the agricultural sector. 

The fellowship has given me a great opportunity to tell stories about how the women in Nigeria are dealing with the pandemic. Prior to the Fellowship, l used to report on different issues but never focused on these issues from a woman's perspective. Because of the fellowship, l have become more conscious about who l use as sources, how l write about women and have deliberately been seeking out women experts as my sources. It is only when they are unwilling to be quoted or there are no women experts that l seek out male sources. This has become part of what l do in most of my reporting. I am now aggressively seeking out female sources as experts and will continue to do so going forward. This is one of the main skills  that I have gained from the fellowship— to remedy the absence of women as sources/experts. I am making deliberate efforts to get women’s voices heard.

Then comes data journalism….. Prior to the training and the support l have been getting, l am now looking for and using data to ground my stories and not to depend only on statements or press releases. I am now using data to put some of the issues l report on in context and to explain whether things are getting worse, better and why? I have also learnt how to go beyond reporting on a problem but looking at what people are doing to address these problems. 

The help l have received with the visualizations for my work has been useful and made it more meaningful. I have made it a point of duty to try some of the data visualization tools we were trained on and it has helped me create some visualization for other news stories that l am doing as part of my daily work.. 

After a difficult start— where l was trying to understand how the mentoring process would happen due to the pandemic restrictions—l have come to value the process we eventually agreed upon with my mentor. The process has been useful and l have learnt a lot from my mentors whose intense scrutiny of my reports has helped me improve my writing even though sometimes this delayed my reports. 

The fellowship also provided me with new sisters in Journalism! The network of female journalists means that now l have someone else l can reach out to any time for help or assistance. It also means that l have been able to collaborate and learn from fellow female colleagues across Africa, improve my skills in data analysis and visualization, and focus more on giving women more attention as sources. 

Most of my reports were shared on Twitter - @Jasishana and Facebook - Justina Asishana and there was a lot of interaction on the story I wrote.  I also noticed that my stories were used in other websites like The Street Journal.

Posted by: Justina Asishana