Strong Women. Better World.

How to be a Sports Journalism Trailblazer with Diana Mutakafimbo (Zambia) and Tega Onojaife (Nigeria)

June 06, 2021 University of Tennessee Center for Sport, Peace & Society in partnership with the U.S. Department of State Sports Diplomacy Division Season 1 Episode 13
Strong Women. Better World.
How to be a Sports Journalism Trailblazer with Diana Mutakafimbo (Zambia) and Tega Onojaife (Nigeria)
Show Notes Transcript

Travel to Africa in this episode of the Strong Women. Better World podcast, to learn how Zambia’s Diana Mutakafimbo (sports reporter, Zambia Daily Mail) and Nigeria’s Tega Onojaife (sports producer and presenter, Smooth 98.1 FM Radio; Founder, Ladies in Sport Conference) translate the sports magic from live events to their audiences, kicking down cultural barriers all while sporting stylish kicks.

Carole (0:05): Welcome to the Strong Women, Better World Podcast Series, a global storytelling project created by strong women using the power of sport, education, and social innovation to create a better world. Each week, we travel to another corner of the earth and we exchange ideas while exploring Title IX's ripple effects around the globe. Hello, hello. I am your host and ref, Carole Ponchon from Lyon, France. And it is my great pleasure to welcome you to the metaphorical ring as two fearless women spar about their trailblazing journeys in sport. Buckle up and get ready to rumble. In today's episode, we will travel to Zambia and Nigeria to hear from two strong women who share a passion for sports journalism and the importance of education in the lives of girls and women. In the right corner from Zambia is Diana Mutakafimbo. Diana is a sports reporter for the Zambia Daily Mail, a leading national newspaper. As one of Zambia's most prominent sport journalists, she's known for her perseverance and her punchlines.

Diana (1:17): Hello, hey there. I'm Diana and I'm happy to be here. I'm ready to put on my gloves. 

Carole (1:24): Welcome Diana. (I) Cannot wait to see you with those gloves. And we are joined in the left corner by another media specialist, Tega Onojaife. You will have to correct me probably for this pronunciation. Tega is from Nigeria. She's a sports producer and presenter for Smooth 90.1 FM radio and the founder of the Ladies in Sport Conference. She's a pioneer for women in sport journalism, and knows what it takes to kick bias and prejudice out of the way when telling someone's stories. Welcome. Tega. 

Tega (1:59): Thank you very much. And thank you for having me. I can't wait to get into this and to kick down some doors. Yes. 

Carole (2:06): Ladies, I cannot wait for you to take us to Zambia and Nigeria and help us understand the cultural and political context of your fight for gender equity in sport journalism. The floor is yours. So off we go for round one of this episode. 

Diana (2:24): Tega, we have a lot in common and one thing that hasn't been mentioned yet is our participation in the Global Sports Mentoring Program or what we call the GSMP. The GSMP is a sports diplomacy women's empowerment initiative. I'm sure we'll talk about this experience. So I wanted to give the audience this important background. Okay, Tega. So here we go, what is that one song that always makes you want to dance whenever you hear it? 

Tega (2:56):  It's a Nigerian song. I don't know if I don't know that you will know it, but you can search on Google. It's a Nigerian song called, Too Correct. It doesn't matter where I am, once Too Correct comes on. It’s Too Correct by Crayon and Rema. Once that song comes on, I'm dancing. I don't care where I am. 

Diana (3:13): Oh, great. That sounds good. Well Tega, thanks for sharing this and warming our audience up. Let’s now get into the core of this episode. You are one of the women pioneers in Nigeria, in sports journalism landscape. And I guess when you grew up, there were no female sport journalist role models to look up to. Can you please tell us how you discovered your passion and who, if anyone, inspired you. 

Tega (3:43): It's tricky. It's not like there were none at all, it’s that there were very few. So there is, there was one, Aisha Falode, who is now the chairman of the Nigerian Women's Football League. There was also another lady who used to read the sports news on the National television station. So I knew of those two, but I always liked sports, and I didn't think I was going to have a career in sports. I thought when I made money, I was just going to put money into, well, there came a point in my career that I was tired of what I was doing, which was insurance at the time I was in the finance sector and I got tired of it. And I said, I needed to pick a career,  that number one I loved. And number two, I would never get tired of. And so the only thing I remember that came to mind was sports. But there was so few women in it. And I, at first I thought, I didn't know how to go about it. So I started to talk to my friends who were guys working in sports, and then they opened up a small space for me at not enough money, but at least it was the opportunity to work there. And so that's how I started, but what inspired me to continue pushing wasn't anybody in sports, wasn't any women in sports or any men in sport. It was people that were doing things in other places like Oprah Winfrey, doing her talk show and excelling at it. That was my inspiration. So it wasn't sports, but it was a woman that was breaking barriers.

Diana (5:10): Wow. That's quite interesting. Let's talk about dreams in the last 12 years you've traveled the globe and covered nearly every major soccer event. For many people working in sport and the media is a dream. One way to get closer to our modern he and sheroes. For our audience, can you walk us through a normal day in Tega’s life covering a sports event? And what, what are the things that a consumer doesn't see that you wish they did? 

Tega (5:45): So my normal day starts at 4:30 AM, if I'm covering a sports event, you have to be there early. So I'll walk you through maybe a day covering the Lagos Marathon. Okay. So you're up at 4:30 AM. Um, take a quick shower, jump on the media boss, get to the location sites, pick up all you need. So for me, there'll be a mic check because I've been moving around and make sure I have batteries and show that my mic is working, then I'll do the makeup because yes, makeup has to be done. So my makeup was done by my help for one, I don't know how to do makeup, so we always have to have a makeup lady on standby. Get our hair done, get the sneakers ready because there's going to be running. So you have to wear comfortable shoes. Then your script, your three foods, you have prepared the night before. Have it ready on the day and get ready, anything can happen. So there was this one time we were told that the race was going to start at 6:00 AM and we had a place at the stadium at 6:00 AM. And so everybody was there at 6:00 AM at 5:45 AM to provide the sheet. And then something happened that I dunno if the lights went out, something happened, we had to change location. So what that meant was that yes, in your makeup and with your heels, had to go to another end of the stadium, which took like five minutes. And then the script changed completely because the collective that we were supposed to be covering were different. So we, we ran from one end of the stadium to the other end of the stadium. Heels in hand. Got there, everything we had planned prior was completely flipped on its head. So sometimes the scripts change and we want people to be able to see that.

Diana (7:35): Okay, Tega, quite interesting. I like the part of the makeup, but I mean, being a TV personality, you always have to wear makeup. For me makeup is not an easy thing. So Tega in 2016, you founded the Ladies In Sports Conference, as far as I remember, and please correct me if I'm wrong. This is a yearly networking conference for female sports professionals in Nigeria. Can you tell us what you hope to achieve with this annual conference and what challenges you faced in your own career that you hope you can change for other women who attend the conference? 

Tega (8:16): Okay. So the whole idea of the conference was to create a platform where number one, women can get inspiration from other women who are achieving great things in sports. Number two, create a network where women support each other actively and intentionally, and number three, get a place where brands give the opportunity to put money in women's sports. And that's exactly why the Ladies in Sports Conference was created. Now, the one thing in my career I knew was that when I first came into sports, because we're so few women in sports, we're very separated and individually trying to achieve, there is strength in support and in teamwork. So what one person can conquer, if she had a team she would exponentially do better. And so there was no togetherness with the women in sports. I was on one hand, doing what I know how to do and Chisom Mbonu, another alumni of GSMP, was in another place doing what she knew how to do, and another woman on the other end was doing what she knew how to do, but what, with what we're doing individually, we're not really making progress or making any headway we had to team up to be able to make a headway. And so this, the Ladies in Sports Conference is the platform that is creating that opportunity for women in sports. And now we are working in teams. I believe in the year 2021, I was able to get Akhona Makalima, another alumni of GSMP from South Africa, to come to Nigeria for our conference. And I had Chisom Mbonu working with me at the conference. And then the public affairs department of the US embassy was at the conference and they were so impressed to see what we're able to achieve with the 2020 conference talking about the power in representation.  And so that's what teamwork can create. And that's what the Ladies in Sport Conference provide. 

Carole (10:12): That's an amazing way to end round one, speaking about the power of togetherness. So we're just going to move swiftly to round two with now Tega interviewing Diana. 

Tega (10:26): We met at the 2018 Global Sports Mentoring Program, and through the program, I discovered that you were quiet, or reserved. So I want to ask if you had a warning sign, what would it say? 

Diana (10:43): Wow. If I had a warning sign, my goodness, “Watch out, there is a strong woman coming.”

Tega (10:55): (Laughing) That’s a nice one. “Watch out, there is a strong woman coming.” Cause it, lots of people see your quiet, they see your countenance. They don't know that you are doing great things. But before, before I get into all of the great things you do first, let me talk about the Global Sports Mentoring Program. When you came, you were mentored by Leah LaPlaca, formally vice-president of audience strategy at ESPN. Can you share with us your experience and some behind the scenes moments with the ESPN family? 

Diana (11:36): In a nutshell, I can describe that as a life changing moment. For me, it was the greatest experience of my career as a sports journalist. ESPN is one of the global networks. So a global channel that we watch out here in Africa, but just to get to the actual place. So it's really like life changing for me. I met a lot of people, I just admired on the screen, but I met them personally. So it's a great experience. And I learned a lot, especially from my mentor, Leah LaPlaca, she was such an amazing woman who always prepared me for, for the day and prepared me for what lay ahead of me on that particular day. You know, I was pregnant that time so she had to go out of her way to take extra care of me, the fact that I'm still in contact with Leah and the rest of the ESPN crew that makes me feel, feel quite achieved. So to speak. 

Tega (12:40): That is so inspiring. It's so amazing. So we both know the sports industry in Africa. People say it's male dominated. I will say it is male dominated, and the numbers kind of attest to that. But what is one gender equality angle that really drives you mad, that really drives you more? What is the one thing, in other words, I have to deal with this? 

Diana (13:06): The one thing that's really the gender inequality especially in sport, that really drives me mad, and I say it really drives me mad is the issue of picks, the issue of money. Give you an example of football. Okay. Football in Zambia is a professional sport. And you see that professional footballers main footballers just depend on football, on playing football for their livelihood. Why? Because they get enough, you know, enough money to sustain them. But if you look at female footballers, they can't depend on professional football for their livelihood because there’s no money, they literally do it for free, so if only there was equality in picks, then I would be the happiest person on earth. 

Tega (14:01): That's great. And so the rising stars, your column in the Zambia National Daily Mail, is that your way of addressing these inequalities in sports?

Diana (14:13): Well, yes, that's, that's one way of trying to address the issue more so that I mainly focus on the youngsters, you know, these young burgeoning sports personalities that are not yet into professional, professional sportsmanship. So I really mainly single in on the girls, just to encourage them that this, there is really life in sports and they shouldn't be discouraged.

Tega (14:43): Yeah. So when I was in America in 2018, you spoke with me about the Special Olympics in Zambia, but I wanted to share with the rest of the world about the Special Olympics in Zambia and how you are trying to change the situation in your country through the Special Olympics in Zambia. 

Diana (15:03): Special Olympics Zambia. You know, I become emotionally attached to anything that has to do with Special Olympics, because I'm so passionate about people living with disabilities in some circles in the community, these people are not embraced most of the times, which you know, which makes their guardians or parents hide them. That really makes me so sad. And that's really what drove me to get into Special Olympics because I wanted, with the help of the, of my team in Special Olympics to advocate for a change of attitude towards, you know, the people living with disabilities, you know, we, we want to preach to them, we want to tell them that they also can do what the able-bodied people can do, and they shouldn't feel shame,they shouldn't feel neglected. They should feel part of the society. So we are using sport to, you know, to help people living with disabilities, come out of that nature and feel part of the community. They should feel loved more importantly, and they should feel embraced.

Tega (16:28): Oh, okay. Diana. One last question. How have you become a better journalist with your participation in the GSMP program? 

Diana (16:39): I'm able to inspire change. I'm able to influence especially women in sports to really believe that sport is a tool they can use to get whatever they want in life. Sport is a tool that will make them be better people. Sport is a tool that will make them go places, meet different people and just realize their dreams. So that participation at the GSMP really gave me the drive and motivation to just be punchy on women coverage in sport. 

Carole (17:19): What a way actually to end this round mentioning the punching force and strength that you get from sports mentoring program. I'm going to just leave the floor to you ladies, but one word to you, Diana, because you were mentioning She Conquers, and also You're a Rising Star. And through your words, we felt the love that you have for what you're doing with the Special Olympics and all the women and, and boys that you are helping there. So just wanted to tell you that obviously just from the voice, you are conquering this field. But off we go to round three.

Tega (17:59): Round three. What is your definition of empowerment? 

Diana (18:03): Empowerment. My definition of empowerment. If you hear the word empowerment, the first thing that will come into mind is finance. Okay. But for me, empowerment is really giving a person the courage to face life head on. That's empowerment for me. And you Tega, what's yours. I mean, what's empowerment in your own word?

Tega (18:32): Empowerment is giving people the inspiration to dream. 

Diana (18:39): Whoa, interesting. 

Carole (18:42): Ref speaking here I could not help but end this friendly fight with a sincere thank you to our audience. And guess what? The winner of today's episode is, communities around the globe who are benefiting from greater equality and inclusivity. Thank you ladies for your priceless time and energy. You're the stars here and today. So I leave you with the final words.

Tega (19:07): Well, nice sharing this platform with you this week. It was nice getting you to step into the ring, put on your gloves and try to punch out its policy. Through Rising Stars, through She Conquers and through Special Olympics in Zambia. 

Diana (19:23): Thanks to our audience for tuning in to this week's episode, we hope you learned something new about women in sports journalism in Zambia, as well as in Nigeria. And you leave feeling inspired to make a difference in your own country. Social change is a team sport, and we are counting on you to join us as we celebrate the global impact of the Title IX. Here are some easy ways to join our team of sporty sisters changing the world. Click the “like” button, subscribe to our channel and share this podcast with your family, friends and colleagues. Leave your questions and comments on social media. 

Tega (20:06): And remember you can listen to more episodes of Strong Women Better World Podcast Series on your favorite podcasting platforms. Thank you all.