Zambian editor steering towards success

Emelda Case Study 1

WIN participants including Emelda Libanga pictured front row, center.

The Women In News programme addresses the critical issue of gender parity at the management level in the African media industry by equipping women media professionals with the skills, strategies and confidence to move to greater levels of decision- making within their media companies.


Three years ago Emelda Libanga treated her job as just purely that. With a fast growing family, her job as a sub-editor at the Zambia Daily Mail paid the bills.

“I was static, not only was I not moving but I was not thinking of what next. It was like ok, I go for work, I come back, I get the salary at the end of the month and that’s it,” Libanga says. “My career was like a ship without a captain.”

In 2010, Libanga joined WAN-IFRA’s WIN program as a way to take control of her career. Over the course of the programme – from entering as a freshman, sophomore to becoming a graduate – Libanga saw her life and demeanour drastically change.

Today, Libanga is the editor of the Sunday Mail and also, on her own initiative, contributes to ideas on how to ensure long-term viability for the paper, from exploring new distribution points to how to capture young readers.

When Libanga joined WIN, she had already worked in media for seven years since graduating from university in 2003. During that time she worked as a reporter and newscaster for Radio Christian Voice before joining the Zambia Daily Mail in 2006.

But despite her experience in the industry, Libanga describes herself during that period as being extremely timid. “My confidence levels were very, very low, if even I had any at all,” Libanga says.


“Most of the time, I ask the journalists to look beyond the usual and to think outside the box. An ordinary story will present you these facts but what else is there to this story? I mentor the journalists in different ways and just try to motivate them. I call them and say, so what do you want to do for yourself in life. Where do you see yourself in five years? I tell them you have to be proactive. Some of them I don’t even have to talk to but they come to me and say we are amazed by the way your career has turned out. Some of them want to come into the WIN program after they saw how things were turning out in my life. So I have recommended some of them to the program and some of them are actually in the program. For me it really has worked wonders.”
-Emelda Libanga, WIN graduate


Doors open


Emelda Libanga.

Fast-forward four years, and Libanga is enjoying new levels of confidence and has more knowledge on both the business and editorial side of news. Speaking a mile a minute and full of ambition, Libanga says the WIN programme’s workshops, diverse mentors and skills development has been “mind-changing.”

“You are taught to believe in yourself. You are taught to be more confident, more proactive,” Libanga says. “You are taught to see opportunities and take advantage of them.”

Part of this entailed leaving her usual surroundings and visiting other newsrooms in neighbouring countries including Namibia, Botswana and South Africa. Such trips helped broaden Libanga’s skills base so upon each return she was better equipped to assume more responsibility.

She says a visit to The Star newspaper in South Africa at the end of 2011 was particularly memorable. After spending several days at the paper she was able to return with a portfolio of ideas ready to recommend and implement at the Daily Mail.

For example, at The Star there was a distinction between a copy and layout sub-editor and they had in place a successful Content Management System (CMS).

“You pick things that are relevant for your organisation and the kind of environment that you are working from,” Libanga says. “So I did recommend quite a number of things and some of which I am seeing become real now.”

The WIN programme also introduced her to the media management programme at Rhodes University and WAN-IFRA provided her with one of the letter of recommendations.

With a scholarship sponsored by the Open Society Initiative for Southern Africa (OSISA), Limbanga spent one year at Rhodes University while simultaneously remaining part of the WIN programme.

Today, she has her master’s degree and in the future would like to get a business degree. This coupled with the WIN programme has dramatically changed Libanga’s whole approach to journalism.

“My scope has widened,” Libanga says. “Usually journalists always think about content, just get a story, get it published and think the road ends there. But I think it goes beyond.”

Libanga know thinks about circulation, distribution, business models and marketing. And she is not shy about taking any new ideas to the paper’s management.

For example, Libanga is hoping to see distribution points outside of churches to help broaden the Sunday paper’s circulation. During the week, with everyone at work, and business centres are obvious selling points. But, for Sundays, Libanga says why not do the same and go to where the people are.

frayintermedia interviews Emelda Libanga:

Community empowerment

When Libanga first saw the WIN programme advertised with the aim of boosting women’s ability and courage to climb the ranks, she immediately thought it was an opportunity of a lifetime.

Much of WIN is based on debunking gender stereotypes and equipping women with the skills to assume more responsibility and make an impact, both on the organization and the community at large.

“When you empower a woman you empower the whole nation,” Libanga says. “It could also be said if we have more media women in high ranking positions then we are assured of issue based content.”

She believes women are often better placed to bring a balance to the media insofar as producing content that ads value to people’s daily lives.

This can be reflected in some of the work that Libanga and her reporters cover in the Sunday paper. She refers to one story about a 70-year-old woman who looked after 36 children in a two-room house. The story even attracted the attention of corporate donor aid.

“While men tend to tilt towards news of politicians in a war of words, women usually tilt towards stories such as of a woman who has to walk long distances to access health services,” she says. “A blend of men and women in the newsroom brings a balanced perception of society to the fore.”

-Alexandra Waldhorn

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