Report launch: Change in attitudes urged to combat marginalisation of women in media

Policy changes, affirmative action, sensitising journalists recommended.

Maha Mussadaq July 10, 2013
The report stated that fundamental changes in societal attitudes needed to take place in order for women’s standing to improve in the media. PHOTO: FILE

ISLAMABAD: Over the past decade, the media has given increasing significance to politics, but it has also put the issue of women’s participation and their contributions in the field on the backburner.

This is according to a report titled, Who’s telling your story? A Situation Analysis of Women in Media, launched by Uks in collaboration with the Danish International Development Agency (DANIDA).

The Uks Interactive Research Project, which has been compiled over the course of two years, contains a detailed assessment of women’s portrayal and representation in the media.

The report’s author, activist Tahira Abdullah, lashed out at institutions and individuals who she said had hindered the acceptance of women in the media.

Addressing the audience, Abdullah said women’s contribution to journalism should be seen as a ray of hope, but felt that there was a lack of encouragement for girls aspiring to join the profession.

“The double standards we see in the media are disappointing. If women excel in the field, they are cast in a negative light, whereas if men succeed, they are termed assertive,” she said.

Abdullah also said that women were being commoditised in advertisements.

Uks representative Khalida Saleem said, “We can trust our daughters, but how can we trust the men out there?”

The report stated that fundamental changes in societal attitudes needed to take place in order for women’s standing to improve in the media. It is imperative that women currently employed in the field create a more conducive environment for other vulnerable and marginalised women to flourish, and in the process take steps towards, empowerment, equality and justice, it added.

The report said the mainstream media generally depicts women in a discriminatory fashion, citing Sharmeen Obaid Chinoy and Malala Yousafzai as exceptions to the norm.

It also stressed on the importance of professional capacity building for media practitioners, which can be achieved through policy changes, affirmative action and the process of sensitising journalists.

Danish Ambassador Ole E Mosby said Denmark endorses a “more women in media” programme whose objective is to engage with the media on highlighting gender issues and ensuring female stereotyping or marginalisation is avoided.

“I personally believe that some of the positive changes we see in Pakistan today are partly due to the voice women have been given in the media. This voice needs to be further strengthened,” he said.

Aaj TV Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Bureau Chief Farzana Ali said women in the region were still hesitant to join broadcast media and instead opted for radio because of social taboos.

Published in The Express Tribune, July 11th, 2013.

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