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Guyana's first woman press association president thinks big

BY KIMBERLEY HIBBERT
Staff reporter
hibbertk@jamaicaobserver.com

Sunday, February 18, 2018

SHE was recently elected the first woman president of the Guyana Press Association (GPA), shattering the glass ceiling that existed for seven decades.

But though excited for the role, Nazima Raghubir is ready to hit the ground running, with plans to have the GPA offer more training for its journalists.

“There is a high turnover of media workers, journalists in Guyana. A lot of us aren't trained and we don't have a journalism programme at our university. A lot come in after being trained in public relations and, to give an example, we have the oil and gas industry that is proving to be a major sector and a lot are not trained to understand the very basics. We recently had an issue with the Government and ExonMobil and the media came under criticism for not dissecting the contract the way we ought to have done. Part of that has to do with being under-resourced and the fact that media houses across the region have the same constraints, in that you're here today at a feminism conference but when you go back you may have to cover a fire, the business chamber, a presentation on investment. A lot of us are not trained in specialised areas and so training has to be sustained,” Raghubir said.

Her other plans include transforming the GPA into a project-based body, supplying particular services as a media association and generating it's own income. She also intends to focus on broadening the GPA's base as a press association and has proposed to have some amount of constitutional reform to ensure more people in the profession are represented.

Moreover, Raghubir, whose media career spans 17 years, shared that it is the first time since she become familiar with the GPA that there has been a large grouping of women, with the executive comprising five women and three men.

She admits that though she never saw her decision to run as a gender issue, after being elected and seeing the fanfare around her election, she realised what her victory meant.

“Women are breaking barriers; this is a major one. For a 73-year-old organisation in a country where women would have stood behind slave revolutions, women would have stood behind trade union movements, equality, voting rights, adult suffrage; women would have been the people fighting in front of all of this. And here it is, for 70 something years an organisation as critical as this one that looks at the media would have been without a woman in the leadership position — then I understood what that meant,” she shared.

“As I was called for interviews I realised it was more than a novelty of being the first woman. Men and women are thinking this is a major development and something that ought to be celebrated, and maybe I should celebrate it too. But, celebrate in a way [that demonstrates] I am cognisant that I am not only a woman but I am representing people of different genders, different ethnicities and age groups. I had to ensure that I understood that,” Raghubir said.

One other occurrence that drove home the level of impact her election had was words from her friend's child and her own two children.

“My friend's four-year-old daughter saw a newspaper with a picture of me on the front and asked why I was there and I told her I was elected as president of the GPA, and she said when I grow up I want to be a president, just like you — and she doesn't know the political context but that made me think of my impact. I have two Chinese kids and the girl is seven and my mom would have read the article to her, and when I got home she said congratulations and I said what do you know about that? She said, 'Aunty read the newspaper article to me; you're a president and I didn't know that women could be presidents.' It meant that something like this would have resonated and touched people in ways that I could not really understand or imagine,” she said.

Raghubir also challenged her colleagues across the region to look for positive images of women and promote them.

“In this region and across the world where there is male dominance in several sectors, we need to promote positive images of women, positive stories of women. I would challenge my colleagues to look, make it a policy to at least do one positive story a week on a woman that is doing something — and she doesn't have to be an academic or professor. That woman can be the woman we buy vegetables from, our seafood from. We have to look for those positive stories,” she said.

Born and raised in Georgetown, Guyana, Raghubir's career started in 2002 after leaving high school and working part time as a receptionist at a hotel, before applying to Prime News.

Still the anchor at Prime News, over the years her niche reporting became parliamentary and government news until she ventured out and started her own magazine called Insight, with Wesley Gibbings as her editorial consultant. The magazine focuses on in-depth reporting and analysis with contributions from academia.

Also a floor member of the Association of Caribbean MediaWorkers, Raghubir has helped to produce a parliamentary booklet to simplify how Guyana's Parliament works for children and adults.

Overall, she remains committed to improving the profession and using her knowledge as a journalist to educate people.



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