By Gloria Caleb
KARACHI: Speakers at a national conference held here on Tuesday stressed the need to address handicaps faced by women in the media.
They suggested that stereotypical images be changed and equality promoted through positive attitudes in this field.
Organised by Uks, a non-governmental organisation working on women and the media, in collaboration with the Woodrow Wilson Center in Washington, the conference was titled “More women in news and views: how to make it happen?”
It discussed a research report by the same name, looking for suggestions on how to encourage more women to enter the field.
Tasneem Ahmar said the purpose of the report was to highlight the insufficient representation of women in the media globally.
The report, which is being finalised for publication on Dec 10, which is the International Human Rights Day, highlights the five main issues women face in the media. They include lack of a congenial work environment, facilities, training and improving women’s profile and employee evaluation in their respective organisations.
“This would serve as a guide for media persons on how to promote better coverage, equal opportunities and facilities for women in the media, which would not only lead to women’s empowerment but also national development,” Ms Ahmar said.
After the presentation, a review of the project by speakers was conducted.
Sheen Farrukh, director of Inter-News Service, said the readership of English-language newspapers was only five per cent. “If we want to improve the state of women in the media, it is imperative that the rest of the 95 per cent which include Urdu and other regional languages must also be given consideration,” she said.
Afshan Subohi, head of Dawn’s Economic and Business Review section, said the problems that women editors faced at the hands of their male colleagues, who despised taking orders from them, must be addressed.
Referring to a lack of training of women in the media, Seema Tahir, the chief executive officer of TVONE, stressed the importance of a media centre of excellence where women would be trained in specific media-related skills.
Saima Mohsin, a senior staffer of DawnNews, also stressed the importance of vocational training, which would give the women being trained an eye for what angle to take while working on a news story and how to cater to an audience when conducting a programme.
Zubeida Mustafa, a former assistant editor of Dawn, said that while looking at issues that affected women, it was important not to overlook the issues that affected men. “It is important not to isolate the media, for if we want to ascertain whether women are given adequate coverage or not, it is important to take a holistic view and see how much coverage has been given to the issue on the whole.”
The director of the Asia Programme: Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, USA, Robert Hathaway, spoke on the importance of collecting systematic data on the issues discussed.
He said he realised how difficult that was, but that was the only way the report would help women in the media.