Sheila Nduhukire

Former news anchor & reporter for NTV Uganda

Guest blogger for FCO Editorial

Part of Media Freedom

25th June 2019

Female reporters must prove themselves twice

Sheila Nduhukire has been a journalist for more than eight years, most recently working as a senior news anchor and reporter for NTV Uganda. She’s currently on a Chevening scholarship at Cardiff University in the UK. In this guest blog for the Foreign Office, she talks about being forced to prove herself as a female investigative journalist – and why standing up to the bullies led her to set up a mentoring group for girls.

Passion for telling stories

I began my journalism career while still at university in Uganda in 2011. I walked into the Daily Monitor [a leading independent newspaper in Uganda] CV in–hand, and asked to speak to the manager. “Why do you want him?” a man I later learnt was the manager asked. “I would like to write for you. I realise you give little attention to university news in your newspaper,” I said knowingly. “But we haven’t advertised,” he said. “Well, I have a passion for telling stories and I just thought you might be looking for someone,” I told him. He asked for my CV. “Only passionate people walk into offices without there being an advert,” he said.

I was asked to report for the Daily Monitor two days later. I didn’t write many articles at the time. But the opportunity to work alongside experienced reporters equipped me with the knowledge and skills for the industry.  In 2013, I won a place on the Nation Media Group journalism Graduate Trainee program, a one-year intensive journalism training in Nairobi, Kenya. There I received mentoring and training in digital, TV, print and radio journalism. When I returned to Uganda in 2014, I was among the very first multi-media journalists in the country. My skills and passion are in political and investigative reporting. That’s really where I’ve made my mark.

Drought coverage

No single day is the same in the newsroom. My mind has been wired to prepare for anything and expect everything. One of the saddest stories I did was the sex trafficking of girls.  My colleague Frederick and I went undercover for a month and a half to do this story. Coverage of a severe drought in western Uganda in 2017 was another difficult story that has stuck with me. Isingiro district is the country’s food basket. But this drought – the worst drought in two decades according to the Ministry of Disaster – changed all that. Families were in some cases selling an acre of land (the size of a football pitch) in exchange for 25kgs of maize flour. In essence, these farmers were selling their most prized possession for £3. I found resignation on people’s faces and yet their determination to speak to us both humbling and sad.

Attempts to discredit female reporters

I was fortunate to be mentored by senior journalists in my early days. I was also lucky to be a part of a progressive newsroom that gave me an opportunity to report on just about anything. Especially investigations and politics that I’m very passionate about.

No amount of mentoring, however, prepares you for the fact that people, including fellow journalists, will try to create stories to discredit you as a professional. The assertions often go along the lines of: ‘How did you get that story? Are you sure you didn’t sleep with so and so?” But if a male reporter broke the same story or interviewed a key female source, there’d be no such suspicion. In fact, they’d probably get an award!

Also, as a female journalist covering what is still a male-dominated beat (because people still expect women to do the ‘soft’ stories like fashion, entertainment and parenting), you’re often dealing with people who loathe being held accountable. You’re required to prove yourself twice: as a journalist who knows her stuff and as a woman of ‘steel’ ready to take on the bullies. Male journalists don’t find themselves being forced to fight stereotypes in this way, in my experience.

A preserve of men

My beat remains a preserve of men. I can count on one hand the practising female political and investigative journalists in Uganda. I’d love to see more women do ground-breaking stories in that particular space.

Partly as a result of my battles challenging the stereotypes of women in journalism, I now run a mentoring group of young girls in Ugandan universities. My message to the women I mentor is this: whether you’re a lawyer or journalist, CEO or janitor, consistency and knowing why you’re doing something are for me second only in importance to God.

The UK and Canadian governments are working together to defend media freedom and improve the safety of journalists who report across the world.  Jeremy Hunt, the UK Foreign Secretary and Chrystia Freeland, Canadian Minister of Foreign Affairs, will co-host the Global Conference for Media Freedom in London on 10 and 11 July 2019. Government and civil society leaders from around the world, including African nations, have been invited to attend.

26 comments on “Female reporters must prove themselves twice

  1. Very inspiring story that needs every one to read it. I love what she does ( Shiela) because many girls fear even to hold a camera is their hands and take a shot or record someone.

  2. Sheila, you are our pride! Nitukweesiimisa!
    Remain good, hard working, committed and God fearing.
    You are in our prayers🙏

  3. Sheila, you’re so special,sweet and amazing. You really aggressiveness work shown the world the need of more #snduhukires. We Miss you home. Good luck

  4. Journalism is all about passion,Passion means the desire to go out there with your minds out of the ‘box’ to do something for general good of the society. As a Media Trainer and Journalist too,the society loves what you do and so do i. Keep it up,let’s change the world for generations to come.

  5. Push on Shiela, you are unstoppable. Happy you sailed thru those “self limiting” attitudes of “am a lady I can’t do that”! Meanwhile our new district Kazo needs you badly…..

  6. Thanks for that mentoring program my daughter may God bless the work of your hands. You make me proud go conquer the world my girl love you and miss you at the same time

  7. I believed in you and saw an intelligent lady in you the time you were the guild President.I have no doubts you may be Uganda’s best female journalist now.

  8. Yeeeeeesssss! Always knew you would be the best🎈 . Well done Sheila. Can’t wait for you to continue conquering this world! 😍

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