Following the completion of her National Youth Service scheme in 2017, Aisha Gambo, who pursued her studies in Mass Communication at Bayero University Kano, found herself fortunate to land a role as a news journalist at the News Agency of Nigeria.
These days, her daily struggles include driving through Bida Road, where her office is located in the heart of Kaduna.
Telling people’s stories has always been what she wanted. “You know journalism is what I studied at the university, so I started practising it fully after my graduation,” she said.
Like Gambo, Rukaiyatu Idris was drawn to journalism by her deep passion. This dream had been nurtured for years, and in 2019, when she secured admission to study Mass Communication at the University of Maiduguri, she recognized that she was treading the path she was meant to be on.
“It’s what I wanted to be. It’s my dream to be a journalist. I’m not living someone else’s dream,” she said confidently.
Across many communities in northern Nigeria, the girl-child often assumes the responsibility of managing domestic chores within the household. This was the reality for Gambo, who struggled to juggle her professional commitments and household responsibilities—each day presented the challenge of navigating work demands while fulfilling obligations at home.
“I make it a priority to complete my work assignments before returning home,” she explains. The home environment doesn’t allow her time to focus or brainstorm story ideas. “Once I’m back from work, my time is dedicated solely to household chores – cooking, dishwashing, and more.”
Gambo’s situation is not an isolated one. Recent research reveals that 60.2% of female journalists surveyed struggled to balance their careers and caregiving responsibilities. This contributes to the limited career advancement of female journalists, who hold fewer than 20% of managerial positions in media establishments.
Idris, who hails from Borno State, acknowledges the weight of these responsibilities for women like her. “Given my identity as a woman from the north, societal expectations place a significant load of domestic chores on me,” she said.
Her journey was marked by challenges, mainly when she had interviews scheduled or stories to cover in the field while still having domestic chores to complete. “It’s not that my family doesn’t support me,” Idris clarifies. “But cultural norms and upbringing ingrained these responsibilities, making it difficult to set them aside.”
Managing time efficiently amidst these obligations is undoubtedly tricky, but Idris’ unwavering passion for journalism propels her forward. “I strive to fulfil my responsibilities to the best of my ability,” she stated.
Even after returning home drained from field work, Idris remains committed to her domestic duties – cooking, cleaning, and sweeping. Only after these tasks are done can she delve into transcribing audio recordings and editing her drafts, often staying up late. “We’ve come to accept these responsibilities as part of our routine, given their ingrained nature,” she emphasised.
Women in journalism
The journalism profession is not immune to its fair share of drawbacks, particularly for women who frequently encounter discrimination and harassment within newsrooms and society.
A 2020 study underscored the hurdles that female journalists grapple with, encompassing gender stereotypes, abuse, and sexual harassment. For some, these challenges extend beyond their professional lives, impacting their marital relationships and families, potentially leading to divorce due to limited time spent with spouses and children.
Being a journalist from northern Nigeria, where religious and cultural norms are held highly, also adds distinct challenges.
Despite not encountering gender discrimination within her newsroom, 31-year-old Gambo faces reminders of her gender-defined role when out in the field. “I usually experience that, especially if I go out to cover political gatherings. They will say, as a woman, I shouldn’t go where a group of men are,” Gambo told Prime Progress.
She further notes that women journalists frequently endure instances of sexual harassment. Gambo’s contact information has been requested multiple times under the pretence of work-related interactions, only for these encounters to evolve into hotel meeting invitations.
“I’ve encountered these issues throughout my five years in journalism. An older man once invited me to interview him at his Guest House, a request I hadn’t initiated,” recounted Gambo.
At just 23 years old, Idris shares similar experiences. She recalls an occasion when an older man she interviewed implied that her chosen profession would jeopardise her marital prospects.
The impact of those words lingered, haunting Idris even as she returned home that day. “I never expected such words from him, and they continued to resonate in my mind,” she confessed to Prime Progress.
The numerous events that Gambo attended over the years within the Kaduna State’s Branch of the Nigerian Association Of Women Journalists or NAWOJ have helped her develop high self-esteem and see herself as someone who can now defy cultural and gender barriers to become a better journalist. She had wanted to be. “The events I attended have helped me a lot, especiallyas awoman,” she said.
For Idris, who is currently a third-year student at the University of Maiduguri and doubles as a freelance journalist, her mentorship support came not from her fellow women but from her editor.
He is the person that saw potential in her and provided her with all the guidance she needed to thrive.
“His words guide me on how I work in the field and collaborate with other journalists or organizations. He will tell me these are the things I will come across, and because I’m a woman, I may be vulnerable, some people might take advantage of me and all of that,” said Idris.
According to her, the editor also guides her in protecting herself by sharing her location with him whenever she goes out for investigations.
However, Gambo and Idris insist that they will continue to learn and unlearn as they pursue this career that gives them joy.