Jana Frey | 12.12.2019 | 540 Aufrufe | Interviews

Dr. Sibongile Mpofu | "Women, politics and the media: Online media (re)engaging female participation in Zimbabwean politics"

Lisa Maskell Fellowships at Stellenbosch University, South Africa

In 2014, the Gerda Henkel Foundation initiated a scholarship programme supporting young humanities scholars from Africa and Southeast Asia in honour of the foundation's founder, Lisa Maskell. It is the largest international support programme for PhD students in the history of the Foundation. The Lisa Maskell Fellowships aim to strengthen universities in the partner countries, to counter the outflow of qualified young scholars and to ensure the doctoral students enjoy excellent academic training.

In the last couple of months, L.I.S.A. has been publishing interviews with the Lisa Maskell Fellows from Subsaharan Africa and from Southeast Asia, in which they talk about their research projects as well as their experiences during their academic career and the Lisa Maskell fellowship.

This week, we welcome Dr. Sibongile Mpofu from Zimbabwe. After graduating from the University of Westminster, she started her PhD in Journalism with the thesis Women, politics and the media: Online media (re)engaging female participation in Zimbabwean politics at Stellenbosch University in 2015, which she successfully completed in December 2017.

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"Critical in developing societies"

L.I.S.A.: What is the status of the humanities in Zimbabwe, your home country?

Dr. Sibongile Mpofu: The humanities are a growing field in Zimbabwe, following the realisation that social sciences are critical in developing societies; that solutions to national/global problems do not only require scientific approaches, but qualitative approaches. For example, my university is a university of science and technology, but it does incorporates the humanities.

L.I.S.A.: Have you ever encountered problems in the realization of your academic career?

Dr. Sibongile Mpofu: The only challenge is financial resources, as universities here are poorly-resourced, so for one to further develop themselves, one has to find funding - which is not an easy task.

"Women are not given platforms to speak or voice their concern in mainstream media"

L.I.S.A.: What was your PhD project about and what got you interested in the chosen topic to begin with?

Dr. Sibongile Mpofu: In my PhD  thesis, I examined women’s political participation in Zimbabwe by investigating whether online media platforms, specifically blogs, provide Zimbabwean women with spaces for critical communicative interaction where they can challenge the dominant discourse and participate in politics. What got me interested in this topic, is my experience in the media, where, as a journalist, I noticed that women are not given platforms to speak or voice their concern in mainstream media, and that it is generally the fact that stories or issues covered in the media do not give an alternative view to that of men - so women's voices are sidelined. So it was interesting for me to find out what sort of opportunities is digital media affording women in Zimbabwe specifically.

"I was able to further develop my voice through the workshops and seminars"

L.I.S.A.: What was your experience at Stellenbosch University like? Were there any differences to other institutions you previously attended?

Dr. Sibongile Mpofu: My experience at Stellenbosch was quite a fruitful one, as I learned a lot. It helped me grow academically, as I was able to further develop my voice through the workshops and seminars, as well as conferences that I was exposed to during my study. I also managed to improve my research skills, evidenced by the significant number of research papers i have managed to publish in referred journals. Yes, there were slight differences, for example at the PhD level, there were many seminars to participate in compared to when I was at the University of Westminster, for my Masters.

"It is difficult to get supervisors locally"

L.I.S.A.: What are the opportunities in Zimbabwe to pursue different degree options (BA/MA/PhD)?

Dr. Sibongile Mpofu: There are many opportunities to pursue different programmes in Zimbabwe, especially now that the number of universities has risen, focusing on different areas. However, in Journalism and Media Studies, there are problems to pursue PhDs in Zimbabwe because the majority of experts in this field work in South Africa, and further afield - so it is difficult to get supervisors locally. Therefore, one has to always seek experts outside the country.

L.I.S.A.: What are your plans concerning your future career?

Dr. Sibongile Mpofu: I am planning to pursue my postdoc studies next year, if i get an opportunity. I am currently applying for fellowships, particularly in South Africa.

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