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Bracing the odds: The daring tales of Asishana and other female journalists in Nigeria

Asishana, (third left) and other participants during the Safety 2018 Conference in Thailand

Justina Asishana’s story is one that whips up inspiration. A precocious child during her early days, she’s always nursed the ambition  to change her world positively.  Today, she’s a celebrated journalist in Nigeria and tower of inspiration to many youths, the females especially. In this chat with CRISPNG, Asishana, who’s presently the Niger State Correspondent for the Nation Newspaper walks JAMES OJO through her foray into journalism, works and achievements, challenges as a female journalist, determination to change women narrative in Nigeria among others.

Excerpts:

CRISPNG: What inspired your journalism career?

I have always loved reading and writing right from the period I was in Primary school. I remember I started reading novels in Primary 4 and by the time I got to secondary school, I was writing mini-magazines for my mates. I usually fold papers together to make them form a magazine and write happenings around and sometimes fiction. From there, I noticed I derived joy from writing and oftentimes, I analyse someone’s situation and write about it. This continued until I entered into tertiary institution which helped to further add finesse to my writings and gave me additional knowledge and clarity of what I really wanted to do. What I would say inspired my journalism career would be the quest to bring what is happening to people, especially the masses to the forefront of government, their leaders and the world. Also, the quest to expose wrongdoings and maladies in the society further inspired me into venturing into the profession.

CRISPNG: How long have you been in the profession?

I have been practicing for about 7 years now.

CRISPNG: Can you tell us about some of your works, achievements and awards?

Okay. I am a general assignment Reporter who also embark on investigative reportings. I cover a lot of sectors but I am passionate about health, agriculture, education, human and child right issues. I generally cover Niger State of which I write hard news, features stories and investigative reports. I love doing reports on rural communities across the state because I notice the people in such areas do not usually get the needed attention in the media. One of the works I am most proud of include series of reports on some hard-to-reach communities across Niger state where access to basic amenities are unavailable (http://thenationonlineng.net/niger-communities-left-in-the-dark-lament-their-situation/ ); also recently, I did a write up  on water contamination in a community in Niger state (http://thenationonlineng.net/our-water-smells-like-petrol/), the report along with some other advocacy done by concerned youths in the community drew attention and investigation was done to look into the matter. I followed up the steps being taken to address the situation and each time, write reports in it.

On achievements, I would say it is seeing that my reports bring the needed interventions to communities and individuals. However, on Journalistic achievements, I am grateful to God to have being recipient of some fellowships which include a fellowship to attend the 2017 Global Investigative Journalism Conference (GIJC) in South Africa, a Fellowship by the International Center for Journalists (ICFJ) to attend the 2018 Safety Conference in Thailand. Also, in 2018, I got a fellowship to Netherlands to attend the World AIDS Conference but I could not go, however, I was made a member of the International AIDS Society (IAS). This year, I was made one of the pioneer Fellow for DUBAWA which is a fact checking platform in Nigeria and a ONE Champion representing Niger state. As for awards, I know they will come soon.

CRISPNG: Tell us about the challenges you encounter in this profession, specifically as a female journalist?

One of the challenges I have encountered as a Journalist which is also applicable to other Journalists in Nigeria is the unavailability of information and data to help with reports, especially investigative reports. Also, bureaucracy in public and private organizations can really frustrate any Journalist.

As a female Journalist, the challenges I have encountered are numerous to mention. However, a few include the need to prove myself that I can go out at odd hours, that I can embark on investigation and take up some trips which are usually seen to be dangerous; facing threats that ordinarily would not be dished out to your male counterparts among others. As a female Journalist, there are some communities that I will need to go with a male escort if not, I will not get answers to what I am looking for and I also noticed that there are usually conclusions or decisions already made for you that there are certain or assignments you cannot attend just because you are female. Another frustrating challenge is the lack of electricity which hampers my work and my ability to meet up with deadlines; often times, I may want to do some writings especially at night, but usually unable to do so due to lack of electricity to power up my laptop or phones.

Asishana and others during a field work on some hard to reach communities in Niger State, Nigeria.

CRISPNG: What are your most challenging moments in the field?

My most challenging moments in the field has been venturing into investigative reporting and journalistic advocacy. Seriously, it has been challenging. Most times, during investigations, I go to places and communities where I know nobody but have to rely on fixers who were referred to me by others; sleeping in unknown hotels and wondering what I would meet in the field the next day. All these have really been challenging. Also, trying to get people to trust me enough to tell me their stories or share information with me has been another challenge. I remember doing an an investigation and needed to take pictures of a site of which I was barred from. I had to take the picture in a stubborn way and had already made up my mind to receive the beating of my life because the people there were extra hostile but was saved just by a stroke of luck. The challenges differ with every situation but I always trust God to give me what step to take to overcome every challenge.

Asishana and other selected journalists during the Safety 2018 Conference in Thailand.

CRISPNG: Where do you see yourself in the next five years?

In the next five years, by the Grace of God, I see myself undertaking more daring investigations both in Nigeria and internationally, embarking into intense advocacy with my reportage to bring succor to the less privileged, mentoring and training hundreds of upcoming journalists especially female journalists and should have trained thousands of journalists in Nigeria and across Africa. I also see myself rising up the ranks to become an Editor of an African or international media organization.

CRISPNG: Is there a legacy you want to leave behind in this profession?

Yes, I want to leave a legacy that will show that female Journalists can also succeed in the field of investigative reporting, that they can do as well as their male counterparts. I want to leave a legacy of being a Journalist Advocate, a legacy that a Journalists can also be advocates for the good of the people.

CRISPNG: Advise to upcoming journalists and the Nigerian youth in general.

First to upcoming female journalists, the glass ceiling is real but be determined to contribute your quota to breaking it until it is totally shattered and be ready to go the extra mile.

My advise to upcoming journalists is that the difference between ordinary and extraordinary is the EXTRA… Dare to go the extra mile, gain extensive knowledge and skills and get a MENTOR. I also want the upcoming journalists not to be discouraged, there are benefits in journalism, all you need is to be patient and walk the process.

To the Nigerian youths, do not give up. With unity, tolerance and hardwork, we can change the narrative in Nigeria. Do not let anyone use being a youth to limit you and do not limit yourself. The best way to create the future is to create it, strive to be creative and make things happen in your spaces. Remember you can do all above all you can ask or think in Christ Jesus.

To the Nigerian youths, do not give up. With unity, tolerance and hardwork, we can change the narrative in Nigeria.

CRISPNG: Women like you have been working assiduously to challenge the status quo and make a case for women empowerment. How has the struggle been so far?

Hmmm! Changing the status quo has not been easy but we are getting there. As you know, we are still in a patriarchal society in Nigeria and a lot needs to be done for inclusivity of women. The struggle has been there and we are not being aggressive about it but we are being intentional about the changes we want in the society. We cannot take on everyone at the same time but if it takes one person at a time to change things, we are working on it. For me and other female Journalists, we are working at promoting women in various fields continuously, to give them a voice in order to break the stereotype and we are also advocating for women to speak out. We are working on the society to see the need for total reprogramming for men regarding women and work on the women for them to get out from being victims of false consciousness which had been created and interiorized for them. Majority of the female in the media are working on the society to accept the empowerment of women and their participation in every leadership position possible.

For me and other female Journalists, we are working at promoting women in various fields continuously, to give them a voice in order to break the stereotype and we are also advocating for women to speak out.

CRISPNG: Briefly, what’s your take on the situation of things in Nigeria?

My take on the situation of things in Nigeria is that Nigeria will get better, there is hope that we will overcome out challenges and the voices of the masses will be listened to.

…there is hope that we will overcome out challenges and the voices of the masses will be listened to.