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How Africa’s First Gender Desk Succeeded: A new study about an innovative partnership between The Nation Media Group and The Fuller Project

September 26, 2022

Washington, DC, September 26, 2022 – A new independent report about an innovative partnership between Nation, the leading newspaper in East Africa, and The Fuller Project, the global newsroom dedicated to groundbreaking reporting that catalyzes positive change for women, found the newsrooms’ unique model of co-reported and cross-published stories has sparked positive change in women’s lives, elevated women’s voices, created more gender balanced readership, and could serve as a model for future global collaborations.

How Africa’s First Gender Desk Succeeded (and lessons for future initiatives) elucidates the cultural and news media context in Kenya, the partnership’s successes and challenges, and recommendations for the future of this or similar collaborations. The report was authored by Luba Kassova and Richard Addy of the international audience and strategy consultancy AKAS. Kassova is also the author of Missing Perspectives of Women in the News and The Missing Perspectives of Women in Covid-19 News, landmark studies about women’s representation along the news value chain.

In 2019, and with support from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Nation launched a Gender Desk dedicated to reporting stories about women that would inform, inspire, and lift up profiles of women leaders. A Fuller Project reporter embedded with the Gender Desk team, working inside the Nairobi-based newsroom, and reporting side by side with a number of reporters on the desk. The partnership leveraged Nation’s rooted understanding of issues in Kenya and The Fuller Project’s expertise in groundbreaking reporting about women to offer a global perspective to their readers, and investigative reporting that would spur lawmakers to make better policies for women. The resulting co-reported stories have been published in Nation and in global legacy news outlets, including The Guardian, TIME, Foreign Policy, and elsewhere.

“This collaboration with The Fuller Project has been one of a kind for me; my team and I have grown
tremendously,” says Dorcas Muga-Odumbe, Nation Gender Desk Editor. “Through this common cause,
we have changed the lives of many women, told thousands of their stories from a local, regional and
global lens; and realised that women’s issues, worldwide, are similar. Lessons we have learned are more
than we would have on our own – they are immense. I take pride knowing that I am part of a journey that
changed the lives of many women, one story at a time, not just in Kenya, but globally. I take pride in
leading an enthusiastic team that has not only attracted local policymakers’ attention, but also within the
region and beyond. I am proud to be associated with The Fuller Project whose ground-breaking reporting
is one of a kind.”

AKAS conducted a rigorous assessment of the performance of the Gender Desk, including evaluating
nearly 1,000 articles published over two years. Their methodology was anchored in 17 research tools
across the news value chain, capturing insights about organizational resources, newsgathering, outputs,
news consumption, individual impacts, influencer impacts, and decision maker impacts.

“The stories born out of the partnership have led to the enhancement of the lives of thousands of women:
some have been sheltered, others protected from unsafe abortions, or given loans to make an independent living. All this and much more has been a direct result of the joint high-quality journalism produced,” the
report states.

Using a sample of stories, AKAS found that the Gender Desk’s reporting represented women far more
robustly than prior coverage in Kenya, according to baselines they established in their previous portrayal
analysis:

• 94% of all experts sourced in Gender Desk articles were women, compared to a baseline of 14%
• 78% of the protagonists in Gender Desk stories were women compared to 31%
• 67% of spokespeople sourced in articles were women, compared to 0%

“The perspectives of women have been amplified through the Gender Desk stories in every element of the
news value chain. Half of the reporters telling stories about women are female … Gender Desk stories
often use angles that support women-centric policymaking through, for example, structural inequalities,
human-interest and solidarity frames,” the report detailed.

The report also offers lessons learned from the partnership as well as a series of recommendations that
could apply to any newsroom launching a Gender Desk or engaged in partnerships between countries
such as Kenya and the United States. Among them, providing ongoing gender sensitivity training,
prioritizing face-to-face collaboration, systematically collecting impact indicators and prioritizing deep
investigations over a high volume of stories.

Nation and The Fuller Project’s partnership stemmed from our shared commitment to reporting
women’s stories in the region.” says Dr. Xanthe Scharff, co-founder and CEO of The Fuller Project.
“From nearly 20 years of working with partners in Africa, I know the threats that women face when they
stand up for women and girls. Women leaders do the work that changes the course of nations, yet
newsrooms rarely take that work seriously. Nation and The Fuller Project aim to change that. And with
this case study, we hope to support other newsrooms to do the same.”

The full report can be found here.

AKAS Co-Founder Luba Kassova, Nation Gender Desk Editor Dorcas Muga-Odumbe, and Fuller Project Co-founder and CEO Xanthe Scharff are available for interview.

Contact: Kim Abbott 202-441-4404

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