Published in Pakistan Observer (17 Apr. 2011)
By Sana Jamal
ISLAMABAD – The first day of the national convention of female journalists gave an impression that women in Pakistani media are committed, professional and determined to change the societal barriers. Around 100 women journalists from Lahore, Karachi, Peshawar, Quetta, Multan and Islamabad/Rawalpindi participated in the conference which started here at National Press Club on Saturday.
At present, women journalists (of print and electronic media) in the country are struggling for their equality as professionals and the convention emerged as a ray of hope for female journalists to voice their concerns on major hazards faced by them such as sexual harassment, gender discrimination, lack of training opportunities, lack of representation in journalist unions and bodies.
Federal Minister for Information, Firdous Aashiq Awan was the chief guest on the inaugural day of the convention. Speaking on the occasion, she said that “government supports the initiatives of women journalists’ for their empowerment” and would utilize all its resources for capacity building of journalists.
The minister enlightened that “government is planning to launch the pilot project of Media University under Information Ministry” and talks are being held with China in this regard. Women journalists would constitute important part of that project, she said. Sharing her real experiences from medical and political fields, she suggested female journalist to firmly handle the issues of harassment within the society.
The speakers included Anis Haroon, Chairman of National Commission on Status of Women; Afzal Butt, President of National Press Club, Islamabad; President of Karachi and Quetta press club; Dr. Fauzia Saeed of AASHA (NGO) and journalists Nasim Zehra, Mazhar Abbass and Rubab Ayesha.
“Despite being capable professionals, female journalists still face a glass ceiling to career progression” pointed out Nasim Zehra who suggested that women at managerial level must support their fellow colleagues working at lower level.
Ms Haroon said that “services of women journalists should be recognized and their issues should be addressed as well as they should be given equal representation in journalist unions.”
Anila Bashir, an ex-journalist explained that “insecurity of job and unrecognized role of women in media” leads to the early exit of female journalists from the field.
“History and services of women journalists in Pakistan such as Razia Bhatti, Najma Babar and Saneeya Hussain, who have rendered great services, must be acknowledged and documented” as it could inspire the young journalists in the field, said Mazhar Abbass.
Afzal Butt informed that “the participants will present a declaration on the concluding day demanding women representation in journalist bodies, unions and formulation of code of conduct for media houses” which will be approved by NPC as earliest as possible.
Women Rights Activist, Fauzia Saeed said that harassment is a global issue and only legislation is not enough to deal with this issue, stressing the need for effective implementation of the harassment act to make the workplaces free of harassment.
The main objective of the convention titled ‘Conference on Gender Discrimination in Media and Capacity Building Sessions for Female Journalists’ was to reinforce and strengthen the role of women in the media of Pakistan and to discuss and help to find solutions to the challenges faced by them relating to gender disparity through debate. The participants from Multan highlighted the poor working environment for women on the desk and reporting hurdles in print and electronic media.
A theater performance on the issue of harassment in media was also presented by a group of youngsters from Bedari and Gravity production. The concluding session of the conference will held on April 17 (Sunday).