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Women ascent in media By Fatima Zehra

The past century is marked with how new horizons have been scaled by the revolutionary modes of mass communications. Of all the different ways through which mass communication has made a difference in our lives, journalism remains the most potent in both print and electronic media. Journalists build bridges in a society, providing the nation with their right to information. Even in the remotest part of any country, where for example the facility of electronic media is not accessible, it’s the print media through which journalists shoulder the responsibility of creating awareness and transferring information from all over the world.

Journalism has proven to he quite a popular career option among women since the past few decades. Women, in our part of the world, have had to struggle a lot to succeed in their chosen fields of interest. It has taken them years to create a niche in activities outside home and of all the various paths they have charted out professionally, journalism remains among the top. According to a recent report by Karachi Union of Journalists (KUJ), young girls are very much motivated to opt for a career in Mass Communication, one indicator being the enrolment ratio in the field of journalism in Karachi University which is almost 70 per cent. Also, lots of girls who get the opportunity to study abroad choose this profession. Fatima Najm, 26, a student at Ryerson School of Journalism in Toronto, is a Pakistani woman committed to writing and a career in journalism. “I can’t remember ever wanting to do anything but write,” she says.

In Pakistan, journalism through print and electronic media has provided a strong platform to integrate women into our male dominated society and has made their voices be heard on a vast level. It has played a vital role in the ongoing process of educating and empowering our women. Ms. Afshan who works for Economic Business Review and has been in this field for the past 20 years, says, “It’s tough for women to survive – media is obviously a male dominated profession, but then as compared to a ‘nine to five’ job, the time flexibility this line of work offers is very suitable for them because every woman has dual responsibilities, married or unmarried; every woman has to look after so much at home. Obviously in this occupation there are deadlines to meet and there are ‘last-minute-rushes’ as well but in journalism you can do your ‘own’ thing be as creative as you desire, project your own point of view, help to generate positive criticism about all kinds of socio-political issues.”

According to a study compiled by KUJ, the invasion of private TV news channels on our local scene has increased the number of women journalists/reporters, anchors, newscasters photographers, editors etc. Although this line of work is usually underpaid, time consuming, and at times quite risky, yet these women efficiently toil away to meet their deadlines. The recent increase is of young, educated and motivated girls full of spirit and zest for this field. They possess a dynamic outlook and a passion to make positive changes in society through their contributions. These young professionals no doubt are inspired by those dedicated and revered personalities before them, who have left their effulgent names etched in the history of media. Deceased women journalists like Razia Bbatti, Aamne Azam Ali, Najma Babar, Zulekha Ali, Maisoon Hussein, to name a few, through their courage and high standard have indeed set examples for the young newcomers. Pakistani women journalists have made a mark with the most august world media like the BBC and the Voice of America (VOA). Aamne Azam Ali, Najrna Babar, Maisoon Hussein and Zulekha Ali highlighted vital issues like AIDS, plight of women pris­oners, child labour, environment and violence against women. Razia Bhatti found, a monthly magazine, Newsline, which not only survived despite all kinds of political and social pressures, but just a year after its inception, bagged the most coveted Asia-Pacific prize for journalism. She collected a whole lot of accolades internationally for bold and objective reporting. Then we have so many other luminaries as well who even after departing from journalism, went on to make their mark in other fields. Dr. Maleeha Lodhi was originally the editor of the defunct Muslim and later, editor of The News. Former editor of Herald, Sherry Rehman later chose politics to further herself and contribute to society. She didn’t bow down to pressure when Herald exposed alleged criminal activities if the Crime Investigation Centre (CIA) and its then Chief Samiullah Marwat and the home advisor at that time, Irfanullah Marwat. Outstanding journalists like Humera Ather (who interviewed the former Indian Premier Indira Gandhi for Akhbar-e-Khawateen), Fareeha Hafeez, Hseen Farrukh, Mehnaz Rehman, Shahnaz Ahad, Shamim Akhter, Salma Raza, Razia Fareed, Najma Sadeque, Beena Sarwar and many others remain active in various union activities and have contributed a lot to their field. Fauzia Shahid went on to become the secretary general of the Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ), and is still its vice president. At one time, the editors of The News Karachi, Lahore and Rawalpindi, were all women. Dr. Maleeha Lodhi headed The News from Rawalpindi, Ms. Kamila Hayat from Lahore and Ms. Qautrina Hossein was the editor of The News Karachi. Interestingly, even these days run under Ms. Hummaa Ahmad, this English daily has very experienced women in charge of its weekly magazines like Instep, Us, You!, Kolachi and Tview. Talat Naqvi, who herself was part of this team and has now moved on to the electronic media says, “I really think women have an edge in this field. Over the years their stalwartness has been apparent.”

It is unquestionable that the surge of women towards media has definitely been one of the major sources behind a conscious effort towards bringing burning issues like Karo Kari, domestic violence, mortality rates – pre and post pregnancy levels, child marriages, harassment at work place etc, to the forefront and although a lot remains to be achieved, at least media has paved the pathway for the ongoing struggle, and has managed to trail its way to recognition through public awareness. Shenaz Ramzi, who has been quite active in this field (she has been a free lance reporter for many years), com­ments, “I don’t want to take any credit away from men, I mean obviously our male counterparts have been like pillars in media, but really it’s the women who have ever so sensitively and fervently contributed to problems related to our female strata of society. I have been in this line of work for the past 10 years and 1 find it an ideal career for women. Mass media has opened up lots of new facades – the sky is the limit. We have now so many private TV channels. I believe the scope is just endless for
girls who want to do something positive with their lives. And it’s very encouraging to note that indeed over the years, because of all these new opportunities opening up through media. Young girls, armed with professional degrees, are making their presence known in this field.” Women can attain a lot of professional satisfaction through careers in media because it influences the whole fabric of society very strongly. Shamim Akhter agreed saying, “You can’t imagine the amount of respect and professional sat­isfaction this field has provided me. I have been a part of journalism since 1966 and I have experienced the might of a simple pen. In fact journalism on the whole is a powerful tool to keep society in check and the female professionals in media have played an important role in developing the level of awareness among our women.”

KUJ has decided to move an amendment in the constitution of PFUJ, to bring journalists working in the private television channels in its fold. KUJ also intends to give more representation to women journalists in the organization both at Karachi as well as federal levels. Moves like these would definitely further strengthen the working conditions for women and produce better results, since conducive working environment plus job security are two important factors which create major difference in their overall feat.

Source: The News