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Women’s Day: Pakistani journalists discuss challenges, celebrate success

Women’s Day: Pakistani journalists discuss challenges, celebrate success

While making momentous contributions for society, Pakistani women in media face plentiful challenges in the course of their work which compel them to quit the field of journalism

by Sana Jamal

ISLAMABAD – Pakistani media has a strong women representation in country’s leading TV and radio stations but women still face obstacles in rising to key decision-making roles, women journalists highlighted at a debate held in Islamabad.

On the eve of International Women’s Day on (8th March 2016), the UN Information Centre (UNIC) and the British High Commission in Pakistan held a debate ‘Women in the Media’ to mark International Women’s Day and pay tribute to the outstanding female journalists working in Pakistan.

The event featured women journalists who discussed their jobs, their commitment and the specific challenges they face.

Pakistani journalists Fareeha Idrees, Amber Shamsi and Waqas Rafique lead the debate. The interactive session which celebrated the encouraging role of women in Pakistani media equally zeroed in on the hurdles faced by women journalists.

While making momentous contributions for society, Pakistani women in media face plentiful challenges in the course of their work. These are some of the reasons why many women quit the daring field of journalism: unfriendly workplace environment, no decision-making role, unequal pay, sexual harassment, no maternity leaves and lack of child care policy in the media houses.

Lack of child daycare centers and no separate restroom at media houses are some of the biggest issues faced by Pakistani women in media.

“Most female journalists end their careers after they get married or have child” because neither our media houses nor society is accommodating enough to let a women pursue her career, pointed out Sara Farid, a photojournalist.

“Those women who leave their jobs to take care of children and family are considered righteous in our society. This is the kind of attitude we need to change!” Fareeha asserted.

Women journalists have to face double pressure at home and work. “Most media houses are not friendly towards women, and then there’s family restrictions and chauvinistic attitude of men at home” which makes work all the more difficult for women.

“Women remain consistently underrepresented within media organizations, especially at the senior level” remarked Fareeha Idrees, renowned TV anchor and journalist.

 Nevertheless, many women journalists are rising above making headway in TV and radio journalism.

“It is indeed a happy time in Pakistan for women with new laws being proposed and passed for their protection and female issues being highlighted on international level by Pakistani women. However, amidst this frenzy let’s not forget the challenges facing women are stark and glaring. There is a scary misogynistic approach rampantly prevalent in our country against all empowered women like Malala, Sharmeen and anyone who stands up to defend them. We must make a resolve to curb these.”

The session was attended by high-profile guests including representatives from media, diplomatic community, government and academia and development sector.

Speaking at the event, the British High Commissioner-Designate to Pakistan, Thomas Drew CMG said: “I think this is an exciting moment not just for media, but for women in Pakistan in general. There is a new generation of quality journalists coming through and they are picking up the baton to fight the most important battles every day” by covering human rights violations, corruption, development or off-limits in their society.

“A country prospers only if and when both its men and women are allowed to depict their talent and contribute something to the society to make it a better place to live in.”

The Director UN Information Centre, Vittorio Cammarota said: “Media plays a crucial role in development as reporters have access to very large audiences and therefore can contribute to disseminate information on peace, tolerance, education, gender equity and many more topics relevant to development.”

The Pakistani media scenario has been growing rapidly in the past years. However the number of women currently involved is far too low. Our objective is to increase the number of women working as reporters, photojournalists, producers, anchors” Vittorio Cammarota added.

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