Women in the media in Liberia continue to face numerous challenges, including the age-old barriers of marginalization and discrimination. Statistics have shown that the under-representation have shown that illiteracy, lack of sufficient skills and qualification, harassment, intimidation and marginalization have hindered the advancement of women in the media.
Women in the media in Liberia are also struggling to deal with issues of low economic status, low participation in decision making, low self-esteem and coexistence with their male counterparts. At the level of the leadership of the umbrella organization for journalists, the Press Union of Liberia (PUL), women representation is very low. Since the PUL’s establishment in 1964 only one woman, has served as president, while I, am the only woman who has served in two posts as Assistant Secretary General (2008-2010) and Vice President (2010-present) respectively. In the urban and rural areas, women in the media have cited numerous reasons for their continuous under-representation.
Now that I have returned to my country with an advanced skills in the profession, with the cooperation from my colleagues, and support from partners, I would work with media managers to encourage them employ more female journalists in their institutions and have them assigned to areas that would enable them compete with their male counterparts.
In my capacity as vice president of the PUL and Editor of the oldest post war newspaper (The INQUIRER) in Liberia, I will work with the Female Journalists Association of Liberia (FeJAL) and other partners in organizing series of training sessions in the strategic parts of Liberia as a means of building the skills and capacity of young women in the media. Within the course of the next five years, I hope to work and if possible volunteer my services to train young high school females who are interested in the profession and to encourage them keep focused since they are desirous of taking on the profession. I believe that assisting them will further serve as means of building up their capacity and to better prepare them for the future. I will continue to render my expertise to younger women in the media.
In the next five years, I will also focus on more investigative reporting in several areas. Another aspect of my work will also be focused mainly on children, especially those who have been abandoned or neglected by their relatives and loved ones. In many instances, children are forgotten, especially when it comes to the media. The media often forget that they are the future generation and as such should be given attention to better improve their living conditions. I will have the mindset to reach out to the kids in my reporting and if possible create a space in one of our daily editions, with the consent of my boss to have an article published on Liberian children.
In this light, I want to extend my thanks and appreciation to the United States Government, through the U.S. Embassy in Liberia for affording me the opportunity to advance my skills in this noble journalism profession. Words are indeed inadequate to express how grateful I am and so all that I can say ‘in this small way’ is thank you for contributing to my success. I am so grateful to God for my father, mentor and boss, Mr. Philip N. Wesseh who has opened his arms to embrace me in this profession. I am what I am today because of his continuous supports and words of encouragement to me. Indeed, he is my ‘hero and role model’ in this profession. I came into the profession with no skills in journalism, but he saw the potential in me and trained me and also provided training opportunities for me to sharpen my skills.
The first story that I ever covered when I joined the profession in 1997 was under the caption “Liberians Pay Homage To The Dead:By Melissa N. Chea, CUB Reporter”. Seeing my By-line under that caption brought joy to me. It built my courage and I knew that there was something greater ahead. From CUB Reporter, and from covering the dead, I am covering the living and I have risen from the position of ‘CUB Reporter’ to the rank of ‘Editor’, which I will term as “From Nowhere, To A Place of Honor.”For my reading audience, ‘CUB Reporter’ is the name given to ‘Reporter in Training’. Today, I am covering, not just the presidency or others in Liberia, but prominent personalities around the world. I am grateful to God for everyone, including my husband who has stood by me all through these years. Let me also appreciate all of my male colleagues in the profession for the support and cooperation I received from you over the years. I will always cherish you for your numerous supports and I am still looking up to you because we have a bigger task ahead of us in the growth and development of our country, ‘Mama Liberia.’