By Peerzada Salman
KARACHI: The media must get rid of stereotypes and make sure that men and women are represented equally in its reporting of events.
This was the consensus of speakers who took part in a discussion titled ‘Promoting gender equality in the world of work: a discussion with the media’ organised by the International Labour Organisation and the Canadian International Development Agency at a local hotel on Saturday.
While the programme commenced with an incisive short documentary ‘Women who work: struggling to provide’ – made by Adam B. Ellick – on problems faced by Pakistani women working in the service sector, it was former PTV managing director Moneeza Hashmi’s presentation ‘Portrayal of working women in the media’ mixed with examples from her personal experiences which was the mainstay of the whole exercise.
Ms Hashmi (daughter of poet Faiz Ahmed Faiz) established at the outset that women themselves had to take the first step in order to rectify the situation of their typical portrayal in the media.
Comparing the period when she was with state-run PTV to contemporary times, she said now the media had to take along the people with it because it couldn’t fool men and women. She laid emphasis on the fact that it’s an economic necessity for
Her presentation started off with her favourite Quaid-i-Azam quote “No nation can rise to the height of glory unless your women are side by side with you…”
Going decade-wise, she said in the 1940s, there were active women such as Begum Zareen Sarfaraz. Then in 1952, the constituent assembly was male-dominated. In the 60s the presidential elections saw Fatima Jinnah take a great step by challenging a dictator. In the 70s, democracy returned and in the 80s, laws like the Hudood Ordinance and Law of Evidence were made. She then showed the brighter side of the picture by highlighting that Pakistan had twice elected a woman prime minister, had the first female fighter pilot, quite a few women ambassadors and sportswomen like Naseem Hameed.
Talking about the role of the media in portraying women, Ms Hashmi said today Pakistan had more than 80 TV channels and even a Pemra (Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority) code of conduct stated that no programme should be aired denigrating men or women, but it needed to be constantly reminded. She said the media provided information, acted as a catalyst for change and a watchdog and enabled dialogue therefore there should be a balanced portrayal of women and men by the media. It should report and interpret events in an objective manner and discourage gender insensitive and derogatory vocabulary. She stressed that the media must resist and discard stereotypes and ensure portrayal and representation of women as an equal. Adnan Rehmat spoke on the media component of the ILO’s project, Gender Equality for Decent Employment (GE4DE). He said it was important to increase media’s capacity so that it could be more gender sensitive. He said the objective of the media component of the GE4DE was to develop a training module and toolkit and use it to sensitise and train media personnel on international labour standards and gender-sensitive reporting, especially on working women in Pakistan. He lamented that women’s perspectives were not given in media reports.
Earlier, Rabia Razzaq informed the audience of the discussion about the ILO. She said the organisation was founded in 1919 as a consequence of the First World War and to address labour-related issues. Although Pakistan was an ILO member since 1947, it was in 1970 that it established its office here in the country. She said the areas in which the organisation worked were: migrant labour, safety and health at the workplace, child labour and force labour. Touching upon the GE4DE she said it intended to increase the skill for employment and had eight core conventions, including those which were to do with gender equality. She also talked about the various skills training programmes that the organisation had undertaken.
She said the media needed to revisit its portrayal of women and cited an incident where athlete Naseem Hameed was asked by an interviewer whether she could cook. She added nobody asked a male athlete if he could change a tyre.
Zaigham Khan conducted the event well. In his initial comments, he said that 60 per cent women in Pakistan worked but their work was neither documented nor recognised.
In the end, Adnan Rehmat told journalists about the different workshops that were in store to train them with regard to the subject.