Sandra Nyaira

The Daily News, Zimbabwe.

Nyaira’s newspaper has been the target of severe attacks for almost two years. The most shocking was the January 2001 bomb attack on The Daily News‘s printing press.

Along with another reporter and the editor-in-chief of her newspaper, Nyaira was arrested and charged with “criminal defamation” in April 2001 because she wrote articles accusing Mugabe and parliamentary speaker Emmerson Mnangagwa of corruption. She traced payments to them from a builder who was awarded a government contract to build a new airport in Harare. The case has not been settled.

In May 2001, Nyaira sued Jonathan Moyo, the information minister, and the government-owned Herald newspaper for libel and defamation because Moyo accused her of fabricating news when he didn’t like the story she wrote about an event she covered. Witnesses – including some from Mugabe’s party – have confirmed Nyaira’s story. The suit is still in the courts. Nyaira continues reporting stories that bring the truth to her readers.

Below is a Q&A based on an interview with Sandra Nyaira:

IWMF: What is the biggest challenge for women journalists in Zimbabwe?

SN: I think the biggest challenge for us is to be able to work and to be able to break a balance and to become women leaders in the newsrooms. Most newsrooms in Zimbabwe are not headed by women, despite the fact that women are the ones that really work hard. They toil for the newsrooms, but don’t get to get the positions like becoming an editor. I’m the only political editor in the whole country, and the first one. It was sort of like taboo to leave women in such positions. So our biggest challenge is to be able to get as many women as possible in leadership positions in the newsrooms.

IWMF: And how do you think women journalists are dealing with that challenge?

SN: We’ve been trying to have meetings, to give each other strength, as some of us don’t have strength to take on the leadership. So, almost every Friday we have meetings at the Federation of African Media Women in Zimbabwe. We have organized some workshops in which we try to empower ourselves, to give each other the necessary skills on how to challenge people — men — in the newsroom.

As you know, we are a patriarchal society. We grew up in patriarchal societies. We try to talk to each other, try to give each other strength, try to give each other tips on how to become better leaders in newsrooms. So when we say, “So and so should be promoted,” they won’t say, “Oh! Why should she get promoted? She doesn’t do anything.” We are trying to assist each other to make sure that we get to the top of the newsrooms.

IWMF: How many women typically come to these Friday meetings?

SN: Between 15 and 20 women. From time to time, we do invite voices from other sectors. We have a number of women from the banking sector, women from universities, the private sector. We do invite them, at least so that they can come and talk to us, and tell us how they’ve been able to make it within their own sectors, and to give us inspiration as well, and to uplift others who have given up.

Some have been working for more than 20 years but they have remained just journalists who toil on a daily basis, bringing good stories, and they’re not being promoted at all. They’ve virtually given up. So we thought, if we could bring up those people to come from time to time to talk to us, to uplift us, then … we will keep on knocking on the door to say, “Hey, here we are, we are bringing most of the good stories, but you must promote us as well.” So we just hope that one day …

Our biggest challenge, our biggest problem, is that men just basically support each other. They have so many support structures for each other. That is what we’ve discovered. They go to the pubs, they go to the crew club, they go to so many clubs together and they support each other while women must go back home to look after the kids, to look after our sisters, to eat, so we’ve realized that no, we’re not doing ourselves a favor. We should get together to network and actually to give each other strength.

IWMF: What has been the impact in Zimbabwe for you after receiving the Courage in Journalism Award?

SN: The impact is quite big, I must tell you. The women’s movement is so happy. So many people are so happy about the award. It gives strength to most people who have been losing hope, especially to women. You know, women journalists across the board are basically being left out in terms of most things that have been happening internationally. Our bosses have basically been taking all the glory away from us, despite the fact that we have been doing so much work on our own.

I’ve even received calls from people in the government, some of the ministers, congratulating me for the award. So I think the impact has really been great. For a Zimbabwean to be nominated, it’s quite a prestigious award, it’s quite an honor for all of us.

Sandra Nyaira is the first Courage in Journalism Award winner from Zimbabwe.

Highlights