Her name may not attract much attention to those outside the media fraternity, but Caroline Phiri-Lubwika is a force to reckon with in the ever increasingly dynamic world of news.
Her career spans over 24 years as a journalist and communications specialist.
Caroline holds a Diploma in Journalism from Africa Literature Centre in Zambia, a Degree in Communication Science from the University of South Africa (UNISA) and a Master’s Degree in Applied and Professional Ethics from the University of Leeds in the United Kingdom.
As the profession undergoes much transformation and grapples with numerous challenges, it is Phiri–Lubwika’s experience and expertise that gives a window of optimism.
Her main thrust is on media training, mentoring and capacity building ranging from children reporting, news writing to media ethics.
“Though much has impacted how news is gathered and packaged, it is the sole responsibility of media professionals to maintain the craft,” she emphasizes.
Her current role as Women In News (WIN) steering Committee Member places her in a favourable position to ensure the coaching and mentoring of journalists specifically women with skills, strategies, and support networks to take on greater leadership positions within their media houses.
“There is a need to ensure balance in newsrooms and assumed roles. This does not only facilitate the development of practitioners but has impact on the representation of society as a whole. Although traditionally the newsroom has been largely coordinated with a heavy hand of our male counterparts; as media owners and managers, women play an equally important role”.
Phiri–Lubwika is quick to point out that, women have over time displayed leadership qualities to effect change and balance the playing field.
“Botswana is a good example of this. We have had formidable characters that have defied the notion that the media space is a “boy’s club” with women such as the late Clara Olsen and Beata Kasale amongst others. Although they rest, their efforts in cultivating the media environment are felt even today”.
She further explains that “Through the WIN project, we continue to seek out the best and build on the legacies of these media moguls to ensure continuity. It is not only maintaining the work these women started but also forging partnerships with media organizations to identify industry-led solutions to close the gender gap in their newsrooms, boardrooms and in the content they produce”.
WIN is currently working with more than 80 media houses from 12 countries throughout Sub-Saharan Africa and the Middle East including: Botswana, Kenya, Malawi, Rwanda, Somalia, Tanzania, Zambia, and Zimbabwe (WIN Africa) and Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon and Palestine (WIN MENA).
WIN has grown in leaps and bounds targeted at Botswana media practitioners in mid-management that runs as a pilot project by the World Association of Newspapers; (WAN/INFRA) in Botswana, Namibia and Zambia.
In her new role, Phiri–Lubwika advises WIN on programming and project management issues, provides market leadership in terms of advocacy and advisory services working closely with advisory coordinator, Project Manager, and Africa Director, facilitates meetings, media visits, Round Tables with industry and institutional leaders, Coordinate with Coach and Project Manager for National Gatherings and supports the Future Leaders programme in liaison with Project Manager and National Mentor to name a few.
She has also been a Facilitator, Planner and Trainer for a Project on the Formulation of HIV and AIDS Policy and Code of Conduct in Botswana Media Houses from 2007 to 2009.
She possesses proficiencies in Gender, Media Advocacy and Strategic Planning both at local and regional level.
Her expertise, compounded by additional experience as a radio producer on women, children and many social issues pertinent to society make her a valuable asset in the growth of the media space locally and regionally.
Together with coaches drawn from various industries, they lead the pact in encouraging individual and organizations participation in building the media space.
Although she’s too shy to toot her own horn, Phiri–Lubwika is animated, when she speaks of her interactions with those involved in the project.
“The growth of every participant transcends their work and enriches those that engage and benefit from it. These are stories told, follow ups and even the accolades many go on to attain. One cannot help but be proud of the work put in. The biggest winners are of course societies that these women go on to represent through their extensive works,” she highlights.
Pointing to some of the challenges women face, hence the continued assumption of women not taking on leadership roles, Phiri-Lubwika says, “ Challenges are not unique to women in media but rather cut across board. Women play multiple roles and depending on circumstances often have to balance eg family, work and navigate society’s bias towards perceived acceptable roles women should play. There is pressure to succeed however many a times women need support to fully reach their potential without the added demands on their already full plates. The industry can be cut-throat and for any professional it may seem too much of a heavy load to carry. Hence the WIN project to guide and grow practitioners,” she says.
To promote continuous engagement and development, WIN holds more than 50 national and regional events per year through the form of Executive Roundtables, National Gatherings, Regional Summits, and, Webinars.
All WIN partners, as well as current and former participants of Women In News, are welcome to take part in WIN-related events.
These engagements include media management training and master classes on an array of topical issues faced by women in news.
“There is much to be excited about as we continue to empower local journalists to be active participants in this field”.
Even though her role is demanding Phiri–Lubwika stresses the need to make time for one’s interests outside of work.
“No one is immune from exhaustion and burn out. As important as it is to aim high on the work front, the home front cannot be ignored. After all there is some truth to the notion that women are super heroes. There’s really nothing we cannot do,” she says with a grin as we conclude the interview.