Navigating Frontiers: An Exclusive Interview with Fatou Sanneh Ceesay

Fatou Sanneh Ceesay during an interview

Introduction

Embark on a journey through the illustrious career of Fatou Sanneh Ceesay, a pioneering force in the world of media. From her groundbreaking role as one of the first women to grace Gambia’s national TV to her instrumental contributions in winning prestigious awards, Fatou’s story is one of resilience, innovation, and leadership. Join us as we delve into the captivating narrative of a woman who has spent nearly three decades shaping the media landscape and breaking barriers along the way.

1. Reflecting on a Distinguished Career

Fatou shares insights into the pivotal moments and challenges she faced throughout her career, highlighting key achievements and what makes the journey rewarding.

Interviewer:

Reflecting on Your 28 Years in Television and 2 Years in Radio Broadcasting: Can you share some key milestones and challenges you’ve encountered throughout your impressive career in both television and radio broadcasting? How has your role evolved, and what have been the most rewarding aspects of your journey so far?

Response:
In my 28 years career as a broadcaster in both Radio and Television broadcasting, I registered numerous milestones and key among them is being a pioneering member of the country’s first ever television broadcaster, were I rose through the ranks to become the Director of Television Programmes. I have always championed the cause of women and youth of this country and have used every opportunity in my work to support and empower them through visibility programmes. As a young radio broadcaster, I had the opportunity to attend the Beijing world conference on women in 1995 and I became the first assistant TV producer for children’s programming at GRTS and simultaneously engaged in health and current affairs programme production throughout my career.

I have great passion for women and children and have ardently worked to serve as an inspiring force behind their Well-being.

Yes, it was under my leadership as the head of the youth and children’s department that GRTS won the International Children’s Day of Broadcasting initiated by UNICEF for two consecutive times in 2006 and 2007 among west and Central African countries. The main objective was to provide safe platforms to discover youth opinions, see their perspectives and listen to their stories.

One of the biggest challenges I went through was finding myself in a TV broadcasting hub without any formal training on TV production and presentation techniques. I was able to overcome that challenge through self tutorials and by watching other international TV channels.
However, there are few challenges that still persist, which includes and are not limited to underrepresentation in leadership roles and stereotypes of female practitioners. Despite ongoing efforts to promote inclusivity and gender equality in the media, women are significantly underrepresented and the male dominated spectrum vastly outbalances women’s roles.

2. Pioneering Women in Gambia’s National TV:

Fatou delves into her pioneering role, offering perspectives on the changing landscape for women in media and providing valuable advice for aspiring female professionals

Interviewer:

As one of the first women to broadcast on Gambia’s national TV, how do you perceive the evolution of women’s roles and representation in the media industry over the years? What advice do you have for aspiring women looking to break into traditionally male-dominated fields?

Response:

Initially we had few women who were actively engaged in broadcasting in the likes of Joy Coker, Yamai Secka, Lala Hydara, Sarah Goddard, Amie Joof Cole, Jainaba Nyang, Neneh Macdouall-Gaye, Ida Jobe, Agnes John, the late Christiana Thomas and Maimuna Bah. As a young media practitioner, we had to look up to these strong female media practitioners for courage, good conduct and their overall performance in a field that has been completely dominated by male practitioners. However, with changes in the perception of mindsets, the advent of the school of journalism of the University of the Gambia and the Gambia Press Union’s Media Academy for Journalism, we have seen a significant increase in the number of female practitioners or aspiring practitioners in the field. The evolution of women’s roles and representation in the industry is now progressing with increased visibility and more diverse portrayals.

The advice I have for women aspiring to break into traditionally male-dominated fields is to seek mentors. Look for people who can provide guidance and support. Seek advise from People who can offer valuable insights based on their experience in navigating the industry. Let them also be prepared to overcome challenges such as stereotypes and biases by always showcasing their abilities and contributions. Let their work speak for itself and demonstrate their competence. Finally let them be persistent, breaking into male-dominated fields may come with challenges but persistence and resilience in the face of setbacks can transform adversity into a stepping stone to success..

3. Awards and Recognition in West and Central African Media

Fatou discusses the projects that led to her awards and explores the significance of these recognitions in shaping her career and the programs she was involved in.

Interviewer:

Winning awards for your work in 2005 and 2006 is a remarkable achievement. Could you tell us about the projects or initiatives that led to these accolades, and how did these recognitions impact your career and the programs you were involved in?

Response:

During my tenure at GRTS, I had the opportunity to head the children and youth unit. In those days UNICEF had an initiative dubbed International Children’s Day of Broadcasting, a day set aside to encourage broadcasters to come on board and embrace the spirit of children. The day was usually marked by given children the opportunity to take charge of the airwaves on both Radio and TV platforms expressing their dreams, hopes and everything that concerns their welfare through programs they produce, direct and present These also gave stakeholders the opportunity to listen and know the plight of young people of this country. As the head of the unit responsible for the coordination of this program, I was not just a team head but also a team player, working collectively with the team and other young people to produce interesting and captivating programs. Our coordination of these events was centered on an “all inclusive” theme and candidates were selected from both conventional schooling system (basic cycle) and the madarasas, but also those with special needs. We had the opportunity to present our work to the UNICEF regional office in Dakar for the competition among West and Central African countries were GRTS emerged as winners for the year 2006 and 2007 consecutively.

Working with children provided me with valuable insights into the significance of early development and the impact of positive guidance. The recognition I received underscored my ability to connect with and positively influence young minds. This experience not only shaped my career but also fueled my passion for making a difference.
Motivated by a desire to address critical issues, I established an NGO ( Care for Reproductive Health) dedicated to reproductive health in young people and those with special needs. This inspiration comes from my deep appreciation and importance I attach to holistic well-being, which I am strongly committed to achieving alongside inclusive programs that empower individuals to make informed choices about their reproductive health.
Through my journey, I aim to contribute to building a healthier, more equitable society by fostering awareness, education, and support for vulnerable

4. Balancing Professional Leadership with Personal Life

In a more personal touch, Fatou shares insights into how she manages the demands of her career while prioritizing her personal life, offering strategies and principles.

Interviewer:

During your career, maintaining a work-life balance might have been challenging. How do you navigate the demands of your rewarding career while also prioritizing personal aspects of your life, such as family or relationships? What strategies or principles have helped you strike this balance throughout your journey?

Response:

To strike a balance between your professional rewarding career and personal family life is quite challenging. In order to navigate without compromising one for the other, one needs to consider setting clear boundaries and priorities. Establish dedicated work hours and communicate them with your family. Prioritize tasks based on importance and deadlines to manage time effectively. Delegate responsibilities when possible, and don’t hesitate to seek support from your spouse or other family members. Always remember to schedule quality time for your family, and also allocate moments for self-care.

Due to the demanding nature of television broadcasting, which is like breast feeding or keeping rail wheels rolling, I developed a strategy in my department that ensures that all staff possessed the capacity to independently perform their duties and are able to multi-task functions of the department. Also maintaining flexibility and effective communication among team members in order to enable covering for one another, has been key in maintaining a healthy balance between my career and family life. These strategies were not just personally rewarding but also professionally as it had prepared most of my team members who now take up new challenges in the UN system, the diplomatic-co and other agencies both nationally and internationally.

Conclusion

As we conclude this insightful journey into the remarkable career of Fatou Sanneh Ceesay, we’ve glimpsed into her pivotal milestones, reflections on women’s roles in media, award-winning projects, and the delicate balance between professional success and personal life. Gratitude to Fatou for generously sharing her experiences, offering valuable insights, and inspiring aspiring professionals in the dynamic realm of media.

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