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Thursday April 18, 2024

Where are the women?

It is time the relevant departments paid attention to this crucial issue and took steps to welcome more women journalists in the media

By Editorial Board
March 10, 2024
Women journalists at the consultative meeting held by the National Commission for Human Rights in Islamabad on July 29, 2022. — NCHR
Women journalists at the consultative meeting held by the National Commission for Human Rights in Islamabad on July 29, 2022. — NCHR

Women in the media have come a long way – across the world and in Pakistan. But it is still not enough. Where we have some of the bravest and most hardworking women working as journalists in the country, we also still have a glass ceiling that may be cracked and broken in places but still needs to be completely shattered. According to a gender audit of news organizations, conducted by the Women Journalists Association of Pakistan (WJAP) and Freedom Network, the Pakistani media industry currently faces a state of gender emergency. The survey has analyzed the working conditions of almost 15 news organizations in Islamabad and found that the average share of women journalists at the news outlets is only 11 per cent. The gender sensitivity assessment of the audit report found that overall, around 75 per cent of the 15 news outlets were gender blind. The survey has also found that many news organizations do not have an anti-harassment inquiry committee. Over the years, small news outlets have cropped up, and most of them do not comply with the government’s requirements. The salary packages offered by such institutions are also quite low, and they mostly rely on fresh graduates who are too intimidated to negotiate salaries.

Stories about harassment faced by young journalists often remain hidden from the media. These women usually share their stories in women-only groups on social media and prefer to stay silent or resign instead of taking any legal action against their abusers. Such cases discourage young women from pursuing a career in media. Women who cover politics are often criticized by political parties’ supporters. In 2021, several women journalists signed a petition and called out the then government’s silence over the cyber harassment they faced. Ironically, they faced vicious trolling for the petition itself.

The industry needs reforms. Many women miss out on good opportunities because they cannot work graveyard shifts. This happens mostly because the country lacks a safe transportation system, and most women prefer jobs where they do not have to spend a long commute time. Our young generation has a lot of potential; all they need is a safe working environment where they can hone their skills. The underrepresentation of women in the media often leads to a lack of reporting on women’s issues. It is time the relevant departments paid attention to this crucial issue and took steps to welcome more women journalists in the media.