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  • Aarti Bhana

Building a culture of mentorship

The gears in the South African media industry is constantly shifting, and often, it’s difficult to

navigate the changes, especially if you’re a newcomer and moreso, when you’re a woman. We are, however, very fortunate that our media industry is filled with seasoned, skilled and women who are more than willing to pass the baton and help journalism in South Africa flourish.

The fraymedia Foundation’s Women Media Mentors Programme is premised on women helping other women in the industry through mentorship and support.

Interim CEO of fraymedia Foundation, Charmeela Bhagowat has over three decades experience in the field from reporting on negotiations leading up to South Africa’s first democratic election in 1994, to covering the Angolan civil war, and reporting on developments in Afghanistan after the fall of the Taliban in 2002. She said that several people impacted her career profoundly.

“In every organisation I’ve worked in, there has been an individual or a group of people who have invested something of themselves in my career and progress - from Devan Pillay (at Work in Progress at the time) to Richard Gibbs who taught me so much at New Nation in 1991, from Paula Fray and the late David Hazelhurst at The Star to Pat Roberts later on.”

Adding that through these mentors, she learned what it means to be a good leader.

“The people who have guided and helped me along from the very beginning have a few things in common: Each was generous with their time, skill, and knowledge; compassionate; honest; invested in my success, and - importantly for me - ethical.”

Working in an industry that’s extremely network oriented can be daunting, and while we might have closed the gender gap to some extent, there are still some impenetrable circles and spaces where women have to raise their voice an extra decibel to be heard. But there are women who have been able to break through these circles and make their own rules along the way with their courageous reporting, compassion and creative rigour.

These are the women we look up to shine the torch and lead other women in the right direction.

“It is so incredibly important and beneficial to have - at every stage of one's career and development - someone who can help you forge ahead and make good decisions by sharing their experiences and supporting your vision for yourself. Having a mentor really helps to keep you accountable to your own dreams, plans and actions in a safe and non-judgmental space,” said Bhagowat.

The Women Media Mentor Programme invites women with a fair amount of experience in journalism, broadcasting, digital media, or any related media field to be a mentor for someone who is either starting out in the field, or is just looking to hone their skills and gain lessons from someone who has been able to navigate the ups and downs of a media career.

In this sense, the fraymedia Foundation seeks to provide networking and learning opportunities and also direct mentorship opportunities to young women, especially.

“I hope that we get to a space in the industry where more women are open to the benefits of having a mentor or coach to help them grow and hone their strengths. A culture of mentoring and mentorship is bound to create more women leaders who are confident, effective and resilient across the media industry,” said Bhagowat.

To join the programme as a mentor, sign up here:

Young women leaders seeking mentorship, sign up here:

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