NIERAs Amplifying Her Voice: Breaking Gender Barriers in the Creative Industry

By Laura Were
The Network of Impact Evaluation Researchers in Africa (NIERA) hosted a webinar on February 8 titled: "Amplifying Her Voice: Breaking Gender Barriers in the Creative Industry." The webinar brought together 87 attendees from across Kenya including Country Creative Arts, Residence & Empowerment (CO-CARE) program beneficiaries, creatives, researchers, and industry professionals. CO-CARE’s research and learning agenda is being supported by NIERA’s Demand Driven Research Initiative (DDRI) and is evaluating the effectiveness of training and mentorship interventions in creating decent jobs and sustainable incomes among youth in the creative industry.

In her opening remarks, Ms. Jennifer Nyakinya, Program Manager at NIERA, highlighted the four strategic areas of inquiry: Gender mainstreaming, Systemic barriers, Job decency, and Technological advancements in Artificial Intelligence that guide the network’s research intervention that is generating insights and filling knowledge gaps on youth employment in the creative industry.

Among the highlights of the webinar was the presentation of findings from a baseline survey conducted in November and December 2023 for CO-CARE from 984 respondents. Prof. Amos Njuguna, Chair at NIERA and Deputy Vice Chancellor- Transformative Teaching, Learning and Research at USIU-Africa, brought to attention notable gender imbalances in the creative industries based on the survey data. The results showed that on average, men reported having more years of experience with 29% having between 5 to 10 years, compared to 19% of females. Men spent more hours per week on creative work, earned higher monthly incomes, and owned more content creation assets than women.

The presentation was followed by a panel discussion of emerging themes from the baseline results. Melissa Kiplagat, International actress and media personality noted that the findings of the baseline survey are felt globally as she drew comparison to South Africa and Nigeria’s entertainment industry which seems to be thriving. However, despite their apparent success, they are experiencing similar challenges. This emphasizes on the global need especially within African countries to work on issues surrounding the entertainment and creative industries rather than opting to avoid them.

In her reflections, Valentine Zikki, Musician and voice-over artist, emphasized the importance of creatives proactively engaging in the negotiation processes to ensure fair compensation. Drawing from her personal experiences, she shed light on the prevalent issue of gender-based pay disparities, recounting instances where she received less compensation compared to her male counterparts.

Another critical topic of discussion was the prevalence of harassment and discrimination faced by female creatives in the industry. Pauline Wambui, Managing Director and Legal Advisor at Zebra Productions Limited advised on the importance of establishing boundaries from the onset as well as ensuring that there are working anti-sexual and harassment frameworks in place in the respective institutions and working spaces. Participants were advised not to let the fear of discrimination prevent them from speaking up, seeking help and advocating against Gender Based Violence and sexual harassment.

Gatekeeping and lack of access to opportunities were cited as major obstacles holding women back from advancing in creative fields with the baseline data revealing only 19% of creatives have had opportunities for mentorship or training. Valentine Zikki spoke passionately about the transformative potential of collective action, urging creatives to rally together and uplift one another. Her powerful message came as a call to action for creatives to advocate for one another, share information and resources in a bid to break down barriers, and pave the way for a more inclusive and equitable creative industry.

In discussing passion and maintaining balance in the industry, Rachel Mwara, Creative entrepreneur, emphasized the importance of adopting a bold, determined mindset. She urged creatives to believe in themselves and their vision, have the courage to put themselves out there, and not let self-doubt hold them back. Rachel also highlighted the need for creatives to educate themselves and leverage resources like the Kenya Copyright Board (KECOBO) to ensure their work is protected by copyright.

There was consensus from panelists that government involvement is critical for instituting policies and frameworks aimed at promoting gender equity across creative industries. They called for regulations around compensation, codes of conduct, accountability systems, and anti-harassment policies to be implemented through legislative and policy changes. Government initiatives promoting inclusion, along with funding and resources dedicated to advancing women in the arts, were also highlighted as impactful measures.

In his closing remarks, Paul Ngugi, the Deputy Country Lead in Kenya at the Challenge Fund for Youth Employment (CFYE) spoke on how the dialogue and presented findings would inform and strengthen their programs and funding decisions to better support gender equity.

In case you missed the webinar and would like to catch up, visit our YouTube channel linked here.

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