Naija Data Ladies: The rise of a network of women data journalists in Nigeria

by Irene Wangui
Oct 30, 2018 in Data Journalism
Naija Data Ladies

A group of female journalists and data experts are working to change the digital media landscape in Africa’s most populous country by bringing greater gender diversity to the media tech community and increasing the production of data-enhanced news coverage.

Established in April 2017, the Naija Data Ladies work to produce and promote data-driven news stories on health and development issues across major newsrooms in Nigeria.

The group currently has 10 members who are affiliated with national news outlets including Daily Trust, The Nation, PUNCH, Vanguard, The Cable and the Federal Radio Corporation of Nigeria - Radio One. Other group members are Nigerian journalists working for international media outlets such as Al Jazeera and Voice of America. Their stories focus on malnutrition, maternal health, FGM, human trafficking and a range of other critical issues affecting Nigerian society.

The Data Ladies network was built under the guidance of ICFJ Knight Fellow Jacopo Ottaviani, who works as data editor at Code for Africa, a civic media organization steered by a team of ICFJ Knight Fellows with regional hubs in Kenya, Nigeria, South Africa and Tanzania.

“Inspiration for the Naija Data Ladies team was twofold,” said Ottaviani. “We were inspired by the Chicas Poderosas project by former ICFJ Knight Fellow Mariana Santos, which works to empower women in digital media in Latin America. We were also driven by the idea of building the capacity and skill sets of journalists already working in Nigerian newsrooms, who can then disseminate the culture of data to their colleagues.”

The main goal of Naija Data Ladies is to build data journalism and digital innovation skills across the Nigerian media landscape. The initiative also aims to bring media professionals from different backgrounds together, in order to produce quality data stories that typically have a solutions journalism focus. Through Code for Africa and support from ICFJ’s Knight International Journalism Fellows, the Data Ladies receive training on data journalism, as well as technology assistance and micro grants to support in-depth reporting projects.

“Code for Africa connects the Data Ladies with our Pan-African team of experts who offer training and support on issues such as data visualization, audience engagement strategies, social videos, drone journalism and more,” said Ottaviani.

The Naija Data Ladies team is already producing unique reporting through its partnerships with newsrooms. A good example is the Shifting Sands project by Data Ladies team member and PUNCH journalist Bukola Adebayo, in collaboration with the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting. The project, which looks at the environmental and socioeconomic impacts of unchecked mining and dredging along Lagos, Nigeria’s shorelines, includes an immersive format, drone footage and data journalism elements.

“Being a part of the Naija Data Ladies team has made me a better data cruncher for the benefit of our audience,” said Adebayo. “I’m able to break down complex data in a way that makes it more relevant and applicable to our audiences’ lives and engages them in new ways.”

Another example is the pairing of radio journalist Bunmi Yekini with 360° video and photojournalist Flourish Chukwurah. The two are working together to produce an immersive multimedia package profiling one of the largest slums in Lagos, in partnership with Radio One.

There are plans to replicate the Naija Data Ladies program across the continent, creating a Pan-African network of female journalists and data experts.

“We hope to inspire transnational data-driven reporting projects through cross-country collaboration by the data ladies,” said Ottaviani. “This fits very well with the Code for Africa mission and would certainly enhance news content on the continent.”

Naija Data Ladies is a growing community open to female journalists and media technologists working in national or local media outlets or as freelancers in Nigeria. Those interested in learning more about the program can reach out to Ottaviani (@JacopoOttaviani) or Code for Nigeria program lead Nkechi Okwuone (@enkayfreda).

Note: Irene Wangui is a media consultant for the International Center for Journalists.

Photo above: 360° video and photojournalist Flourish Chukwurah (center) and Radio One journalist Bunmi Yekini (right) on a Naija Data Ladies assignment in Lagos, Nigeria. Image credit Flourish Chukwurah.