Our EDITOR TO EDITOR series honours WAN-IFRA’s 2024 Women in News Editorial Leadership Award Laureates, announced this week.

African region Laureate, Beatrice Bandawe – Managing Editor of The Guardian Limited in Tanzania – has had an impact on journalism that extends beyond her contribution as a gender advocate. She has managed to influence policy changes in Tanzania through powerful journalism: the Guardian Limited’s investigative reporting led to significant reforms in pension fund policies.

Under Bandawe’s leadership, The Guardian amped up its reporting on underrepresented groups – including people with disabilities – and increased capacity building training to ensure fair representation.

An alum of WAN-IFRA’s Women in News Leadership Accelerator programme, Bandawe is committed to training, coaching, and mentoring journalists, particularly women, to enable them to navigate the challenges of modern newsrooms.

At the Guardian, she has spearheaded research projects on Gender-Based Violence and, with her team, developed a Gender Balance guideline, challenging stereotypes and discrimination against female journalists, while promoting inclusivity in media representation.

She shares her challenges, and triumphs with us on the eve of the World News Media Congress in Copenhagen, where she and fellow laureate Dima Khatib will discuss why Authenticity Matters: The Power of Inclusive Media in Building Audience Trust with Editor in Chief of Daraj Media, Diana Moukalled.

You have played a major role in amplifying marginalised voices and actively affecting policy changes; how would you describe your journalism?

I describe myself as being responsible for publishing content about real events, from an unbiased perspective, that led my paper to be credible and trusted, and to increase its circulation.

From where I started as a reporter, to being a managing editor, is a great achievement; for this milestone, I would describe myself as an ethical leader who publishes stories that touch peoples’ lives.

Women in News played a big role in providing me with the necessary skills to lead in the newsroom, by engaging me with training and programmes that empowered me to become confident in decision making.

How has your journalism work changed you, if at all?

We as journalists have this incredible opportunity to tell the stories of our lives – the stories families will show future generations, and communities will look back on to see where we were, where we are now, how we got there and where we are going.

Journalism affords me the privilege to serve a community and find creative ways to connect members that they might not have otherwise been able to do.

Journalism has given me exposure and experience of working with different people, and in different environments. This has also changed my journalism work. The world is transforming. We also need to change.

The business of news has changed considerably since you first started on your career path. What is Tanzania’s media landscape like right now – is there greater freedom, are there opportunities for journalists to prosper, and what advice for industry entrants?

Tanzania has a diverse media landscape comprising state-owned and private outlets, in both English and Kiswahili. They include conventional and digital newspapers, other digital platforms (blogs, Online TVs and radios), traditional radio and TV stations.

There has been improved media freedom since the new regime entered into power in 2021, which went hand in hand with the amendments of previous, draconian media laws.

The communication officers of the government authorities have also improved their collaboration with journalists, and the new government – through the ministry responsible for information – has also formed a special team of media professionals to revisit economic conditions of media houses and welfare of journalists after nearly six years of deterioration (2016-2021) due to harsh laws and authoritarian regime of the former leader.

‘There are many opportunities for journalists to prosper in this era of digitalisation. They can increase consumers through social media using new technology and the government’s proposed recovery of media house economies.’

My advice for new entrants is that they should exploit opportunities within the digital space. Young reporters are on the first rung of the editorial ladder. They should keep updated on current affairs, network within the industry,  and continually upskill themselves through continuous learning from those who have succeeded.

‘Journalism today is a world away from the newspapers we used to read. Now there are more ways to consume news that ever before – from social media channels to online websites. Moreover, the internet and the connectedness of our world means it’s much easier to report and share information.’

Your career is distinguished with extraordinary achievements, notably the work you’ve done in raising the voices of women, journalists and those with disabilities. You’ve been at the forefront of covering major events. Has any story stuck with you – and why?

During the pandemic, media in Tanzania was heavily restricted. The government announced that there was no Covid-19 in the country, and actually restricted people from wearing masks at gatherings.

Media was not even allowed to report the status of disease in the country, and were not allowed to quote data from any international organisations, including WHO. In Tanzania, Covid-19 was officially declared “breathing challenges.”

Communities were afraid to give any information to the media, even those who lost their relatives, confirmed by doctors. Due to the situation, the media operated in high censorship that changed the narrative. Media were also afraid of doing sensitisation to communities to use protective gear like wearing masks, take precautions like social distancing and avoid gatherings.

We had good stories but we couldn’t publish it as it was. The only two people who had the authority to make any statements on the situation were the Prime Minister and the Minister for Health.

Despite government restrictions on reportage, The Guardian covered the Covid-19 pandemic, and its impact


What advice would you give to women newsroom leaders today? What are the most crucial elements for newsroom leaders to consider in this transformative age?

I would advise women newsroom leaders to be catalysts for changing news narratives, and to use the power of media to empower women in the newsroom, to strengthen the voice of the women in the media and support their professional growth. Make women the focus of the reporting, and find the woman in every story.

Women occupy low to middle level positions in newsrooms, and it’s difficult to attain decision-making positions, even if they are better educated and more experienced than their male counterparts. To counter this, I would advise all newsrooms to adopt, and make use of, a gender policy, because most of the media houses do not have gender policies and many who have, don’t put them to use. 

And finally, in this transformative age, the news business has gone digital – and media houses need to further explore digital revenue opportunities, for this industry to survive and thrive.

Women in News Editorial Leadership Award Laureates Beatrice Bandawe, Dima Khatib, and Nan Paw Gay will be recognised at WAN-IFRA’s World News Media Congress, taking place in Copenhagen, Denmark, on 27-29 May 2024.

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