The rise to fame of a female journalist, Anna Nimiriano
She came all the way from being a newsroom reporter to one who is controlling one of the leading daily English newspapers in South Sudan. Anna Nimiriano is one such female who did not look at her gender background and endowed all her ability to reach the highest helm of practicing journalism. She achieved her goal of being the Editor In Chief of the Juba Monitor through hard work and much dominated challenges. This is a story of one who said no to the perception that women cannot make it in some of the challenging professions like journalism. Senior Editor Opio Jackson had one on one with Anna, a very noble but firm and disciplined Media House Manager.
Question: Briefly could you introduce yourself and tell the readers what inspired you to take journalism as a career?
The spirit to become a journalist started in me while I was still very young. I didn’t know but my elder sister used to say how I was good at narrating to my parents any incident that might have happened in their absence.
However, after I joined intermediate school, I developed much interest in the “Weekly Review” where every pupil was encouraged to report the event that happened in their area over the weekend. The story would be displayed on the notice board for the pupils to read.
I was very active in the weekly review but also when I joined secondary school, I developed more interest in photographing in which my uncle bought for me a camera in order to develop my career.
While during the SPLA’s war of liberation with the Khartoum regimes, there were lots of things that were taking place. I decided to write opinions for Khartoum Monitor newspaper so that my voice could be hard. My first article was a respond to the opinion written by Nhial Bol Aken describing the women who were blissing their skins. To me I felt it was an insult to the women and I decided to comment about it.
Thereafter, I continued to write many opinions and commentaries especially when I was at the university. This was where I developed my career for journalism and after the completion of my studies at the university, I joined Khartoum Monitor because the Editor-in-Chief Alfred Taban was interested in my writings and he asked me whether I was willing to join the newspaper. It was in 2006 when I joined the media industry and since then I remained in the field of journalism.
Question: This is one area which has been predominantly a man’s field. How do you cope up with the challenges in the line of duty?
The challenges are mainly categorized into two; the internal and external challenges. The internal challenges include the daily printing cost which is very expensive as well as the operational cost of the office. For instance we normally use 80 litres of fuel daily for both generator and motor vehicles. These are the daily challenges we have to face in order to keep operating.
However, economic crisis in the country is yet another challenge because it is almost making it impossible for us to do proper budgeting. The little money that is got from the sales of the newspaper often goes for printing cost which has made it hard for us to pay our staff better.
As a journalist, I always don’t feel free to express myself because if you say something the authorities will assume that you are against the system. I always wanted to start writing for a column but it is like I am doing self-censorship. I feel like the authorities will say I am against them. This is another challenge because you don’t feel free to comment on what you see around you.
Question: You are in a high position not only in the country but in the region. As Editor-in-Chief of a daily print media, what are the obstacles in your duty and what would you like to pass across to other female journalists?
I have already talked about the obstacles but my message to the female journalists is that they should be courageous enough whenever they meet any challenge. It is better to seek for advice from the colleagues in order to get a solution instead of quitting the profession.
I personally often share my obstacles with my senior colleagues who are in the same profession but working with NGOs. I am appealing to all female journalists to do the same by sharing their obstacles with the colleagues as a way to find solutions to the problems they may be facing. One should not keep the challenges she faces in her line of duty as personal but always seek for advice.
Question: Being at the helm entails you to both administrative and professional chores, what is more significant in managing the daily newspaper in the country?
Managing daily newspaper is not something easy but it is very important to give the readers quality and accurate information. This is done by updating them on the current events taking place in the country, the region as well as to inform them on the issues that affect them.
The other issue is finance because it is very important to ensure the newspaper is distributed on daily basis so that the readers who are in far places can have access to the papers.
As an independent print media which does not rely on external support, our marketing department has to toil to ensure that there is advertisement in the newspaper. It is from these advertisements that we earn some income to sustain our operations.
There is also need for peace in the country so that the newspapers can be circulated across the country but without security you cannot take the papers to the states.
Question: How do you handle some of the sensitive news that comes through your docket? Describe your relationship with the authorities?
It is very important to verify any sensitive information whether it is from within or outside the country. We always have to verify any sensitive information with the reliable sources. It will otherwise be more challenging if you run a sensitive story without cross-checking because it will land the media house into trouble with the authorities.
It is better to balance the story in order to remain credible to the readers. For instance when we get sensitive information, we always verify with the government to get their side of the story.
However, our relationship with the authorities is not bad despite the fact that the truth is always not accepted. As media, we remain committed to telling the truth to the public despite the challenges. It is our sole responsibility to act as watch-dogs without undermining the accuracy.
Question: Could you talk of discrimination in the profession and among women folks in the country?
In most cases women have been perceived negatively in the society. Sometimes even if a woman is holding the same level of position to that of a man but the respect always given to a woman is less compared to a man.
Our traditional norms have often let the women down despite their achievements. These negative impacts of our transitional beliefs have made some women to believe that they don’t have the authority to do the same thing that a man does although they are in the higher position.
Question: How much have women achieved in gender equality? Are cultural norms affecting these achievements?
There is no exact percentage of how much gender equality has been achieved but generally there has been a bid of achievements. For instance there are women in the parliament, the executive, civil society as well as the media.
However, the issue is not about position but the roles played by women and how capable are they. It is not a matter of being at the top position but the point is how capable are the women to deliver services to the public.
Nevertheless, our traditions have always led the women down because their achievements are not being considered by the society they live in.
What would you say about girl child marriage within the different communities and how about polygamy?
Child marriage must be stopped although it is one of the vices that are deeply rooted in our cultures whereby in some communities a girl is forced by her parents to marry a man not of her choice as early as she reaches15-16 years old.
Parents tend to consider girls as a source of income for them but they don’t consider sending girls to school not knowing that they are ruining the future of their daughters.
Child marriage should be discouraged because it has a lot psychological effects on the girl and many of them have attempted to commit suicide simply because they were forced to marry a man who was not of their choice.
My advice to the parents is that they should allow their daughters to complete their studies then thereafter they can go for marriage. We should also not forget that child marriage is one of the factors for the rise of maternal mortality rate.
Regarding polygamous marriage, according to the biblical teaching a man is advised to marry only one woman but sometimes it is the contrary when we look at our cultures. In the African Traditional Society polygamy is being considered a prestige and richness of a man is determined by the number of the women he marries.
However, in the current economic crisis, it is better to marry only one woman to have a sizeable number of children in order to sustain their well-being. For instance polygamous marriage is the major cause for the rise of street children across the states of South Sudan.
Question: In your own opinion as a woman, do you think gender equality has been attained if yes or no how and what should be done?
Yes, gender equality has been attained to some extend but the most important thing is that women should demonstrate their capability so that they may be given more roles to play. Formerly the government has allocated 25 percent for women and recently it has increased to 35 percent but this increment is not implemented.
There are still very few women who are holding top positions in the government. However, girl child education needs to be encouraged more because we cannot demand for gender equality if there are only few women who are educated. So the media still have a great role to play in creating awareness about gender equality.
What would be your general message to women, particularly the elite who are aspiring to make it big in life?
The message to the women is that they should support each and work collectively. They should continue to advocate for peace in the country because women and children are the most vulnerable people in the country.
I do encourage women at the South Sudan Council Churches and other women groups who have taken up the initiative to pray for peace in the country. They should continue with good spirit and one day peace will return in the country.