Credit: Image from Pixabay

Kiran Nazish, co-founder of the Coalition for Women in Journalism, has spent the last decade and a half reporting in different parts of the world as well as training and teaching journalism. In the course of her work, she realised female reporters did not benefit from a network of support in most of the areas.

She launched the non-profit initiative in March 2017 to connect and support women journalists through a global network of mentors that spans different beats, regions and languages.

Mentors cover parts of South Asia, Latin America, the Middle East and North America, and they have expertise across topics such as health and war reporting, as well as skills including photography and broadcast.

The coalition is aimed at women who are "stuck in the middle of their career and not reaching the top," Nazish told in a recent podcast.

"We do not offer mentorship to early career journalists simply because they are starting off, so they are likely to figure out what kind of reporting they want to do, what works for them and what doesn't.

"We were created to help women who have tried doing reporting but they are failing in some way, so guidance could help them smoothen that congestion they're facing in their career growth."

The organisation offers different types of mentorship: for freelance foreign correspondents, who are just starting to report in a new country; for journalists covering a certain beat who could benefit from someone's expertise in that topic; and for local reporters who may need support with a particular language or getting around in the field.

"There are groups doing some work to help freelancers, we have organisations that have been set up to ensure freelancers get some rights, but the entire system of how freelancers work is very sporadic.

"It depends on which publication you are working with, what kind of editor you work with, and what your relationship with them is. If you have already spent some time working with them, then your rights and the environment you work in are reasonably better than those of a freelancer who starts covering a new country, who wants to explore new publications or who wants to expand their career."

The next mentorship application cycle opens in January 2018 and there are no prerequisites to apply. The coalition aims to match each applicant with the most suitable mentor in the network, Nazish said.

The duration of the mentorship and the type of support provided varies from one person to another, and it can range from developing expertise in a certain field, to pitching advice or connecting with a new organisation.

"I think it's rewarding for the mentors to support their colleagues, so there is also the human need that we want to share the skills and expertise learned in our careers. We want to create an environment where women journalists can help each other."

Based on the challenges that come up in the mentorship applications it receives, the coalition has also researched other problems women journalists are confronted with, such as discrimination based on age.

The team is planning to launch an advocacy part of the organisation later this month to help "make these issues more visible", and they are also seeking funding to help sustain the work that is currently being done on a voluntary basis.

"Traditionally, women journalists have been doing it alone and they do need an infrastructure that helps guide them through their careers.

"We see more women journalists graduating from university and working in the field but (...) unless we really thrive in this culture of helping and seeking help from our colleagues, I don't think we can fight the numbers.

"The reason why women are not on the top is not because there aren't enough women or that they're not talented enough, it's purely that they need to help each other. That's why we were formed and that's why we would like to get as much support in from everyone in the industry."

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