Kath Magrobi, 53, has overcome major obstacles on her journey to building the nonprofit platform Quote This Woman+ (QW+) to help close the gender gap in the media. She took personal financial risks to build something that would make a difference. She chose to focus on giving women and marginalised people a voice in the media.
Established in the lead-up to the 2019 elections, QW+ aims to correct the imbalance of male overrepresentation — typically by a factor of four to one. It is a database of about 750 women experts whom journalists can contact on a variety of topics.
The organisation also empowers people with skills through media training, webinars and events such as story slams. As a result of her efforts, more than 1 000 journalists from local and international publications such as AFP, Al Jazeera, Bloomberg, The Economist, Reuters, The New York Times and The Times of London consult the directory for nuanced perspectives and to foreground women’s voices.
She has shone a light on the injustices that arise when news platforms promote the powerful minority, rather than the experiences of the majority, whose lives remain othered. In a tough media and nonprofit sector she has raised funds through donors and crowdfunding efforts to support her work and her all-women staff.
What is the best piece of advice you've ever been given?
At any day in QW+, any team member can assume the mantle of leadership. When I faced a severe health crisis a while back, the youngest and sometimes wisest team member reminded me that rest is a powerful form of resistance, and that we must nurture our own wellbeing and reclaim our own strength, more and more of it, before we have enough reserves to overflow with support for others. This advice serves as a constant reminder that the stronger we are, the more strength we can channel towards the positive transformation of our wounded society.
Our theme this year is Accelerating Equality & Empowerment in Women. How do you empower yourself and women around you?
This last year, I’ve been studying through the South African Association of Jungian Analysts, learning more about the inner work it takes for a woman to build agency in the context of centuries old power-codes that come to us through our language, culture, social structures, workplaces and religion. I started this studying to help me with Quote This Woman+ training, but have found it to be incredibly empowering on a personal level. As a feminist non-profit, the theory of change driving Quote This Woman+ is to accelerate equality and empowerment in women: in fact, to ensure no voice is left behind from any sector of society. I started Quote This Woman+ because women are significantly under-represented and stereotyped as news experts and sources in reporting, being heard only once in every five times an expert is quoted. Patriarchy, cultural norms and religious constructs have contributed to women experts feeling disconnected from their own voices. Our platform serves as a counterforce to this. By joining the Quote This Woman+ database, women experts, activists and thought leaders are amplifying their voices and speaking truth to power. The media becomes a conduit through which their insights, expertise and perspectives transcend the noise and contribute to shaping policy and discourse, and this empowerment extends beyond individual boundaries. It radiates outward, affecting the larger ecosystem of women within and beyond our immediate circles. Quote This Woman+ empowers women to reclaim their voices, challenge entrenched norms, and foster a media landscape that genuinely represents the richness of diverse perspectives. In turn, this accelerates a cycle of equality and empowerment, paving the way for a future where no voice is left behind. We’re creating a legacy of change, inspiring women to step into their power and embrace their rightful place in the tapestry of society.
If you could change or achieve one thing for South Africa today, what would it be?
Just as a woman’s voice that is silenced goes unnoticed, each time a woman’s voice gets amplified, it lifts above the noise and has a real chance to influence policy. Curating women+ experts for the QW+ database means there are 750 more voices reshaping narratives and platforming diverse perspectives. This is gender activism at its best.