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'The Sahara Has Separated Us For Too Long': Egyptian Union of Media Women Expands Throughout Africa

8 November, 2016
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Founded to represent women's interests in the field of journalism in Egypt, particularly those without access to professional advancement, the Union of Media Women has now spread its wings throughout the entire African continent.

They have launched an African arm of the Egyptian women journalists union "so that women on the continent can tell the African stories from their perspective rather than disseminate the biases and stereotypes of parachuting journalists," stated Shahira Amin, one of the founding members of the union, on her Facebook account.

Amin told BECAUSE that the union is hoping to bring African journalists to Egypt for training, as well as to travel to African countries to organize workshops there.
"The aim is to build capacity of journalists so that they can tell the African stories, and to establish a network of journalists for exchange of ideas and information. [The expansion is] also for solidarity and support," Amin continued.

"The Sahara has separated us for too long now. We want to build bridges and forge partnerships. The exchange will be mutually beneficial," Amin stated.

Through numerous activities, the union has been offering legal, moral and professional support since February 2015, with all efforts on a voluntary basis. The union provides training that prepares women for all aspects of media work,  from media ethics and the safety of journalists to overcoming trauma. Men are also targeted for workshops, with a specific focus on changing their perceptions and attitudes towards women in media, notably in leadership roles. Following the training, work opportunities are provided through linking graduates with media outlets. 

While the Union of Media Women has been growing, it was also drawing international attention. In May, the union won the Responsible Leaders 2016 Award, a German award set up by the BMW-Herbert Quandt Foundation which rewards people "... who develop and operate exemplary initiatives for the common good in their professional or private lives," with a particular emphasis on social and community impact. Upon wining, the union decided to use the prize money for future expansion, including becoming a union for African women journalists and launching the first African Woman magazine.

The union has also been nominated for Index on Censorship's Freedom of Expression 2017 Awards for journalism. The awards ceremony is to take place in London April 2017.

Photo: courtesy of Union of Media Women in Egypt

Tags Union of Media Women in Egypt Shahira Amin journalism women in journalism African journalism