February 12, 2015

LOOKING BACK, STEPPING FORWARD, STRIDING AHEAD : Opportunities and Challenges for Women in Pakistani Media

Panos Pakistan in association with the Pakistan Women’s Media Network and the Saneeya Hussain Trust organized a seminar to celebrate women’s achievements in media, and to take a fresh look at the challenges they face in realizing their rights and their potential. The seminar titled “Looking Back, Stepping Forward, Striding Ahead” was held at the Karachi Press Club on 11th August 2008. More than 60 women came together to deliberate on ‘Opportunities and Challenges for women in Pakistani Media’.

The event attracted some leading names from the world of media. Celebrities from TV, print and radio were among the speakers and the audience. Zohra Yusuf, a former journalist who began her career at The Star and is now an advertising executive as well as a media analyst, took charge of “looking back” by profiling the achievements of women like development writer Ameneh Azam Ali, pioneering magazine editor Razia Bhatti, feminist writer Najma Babar and environmental journalist Saneeya Hussain.

Zubeida Mustafa recounted the challenges and achievements of women in the print media, pointing out that the success of the women’s movement had led to women’s empowerment and advancement in many professions, including media. She recounted how  when she started out at an English daily, she was the only full-time woman journalist at the paper. Times had changed, and now there were 320 women at the same newspaper, many of them in positions of authority. Women had even held positions of editors of leading national dailies.

Sahira Kazmi, renowned TV producer, spoke about the times when TV boldly went where no man had gone before by highlighting the status of women in society and exposing ills such as domestic violence.

Pakistan’s favourite TV presenter, Mahtab Rashdi, recalled the days of Islamization when women on TV were required to cover their heads. She bypassed the ban by wearing saris, and when her defiance was ‘uncovered’ she took a stand and sat out the policy by quitting media and using her celebrity status to support the cause of environment protection.

The dynamic radio presenter Nosheen Razzaq said radio was a way for women to gain confidence and to project their voices. It was a stepping stone that empowered women to achieve greater heights in media – on TV and in the print media. In itself, radio allowed women’s voices to be heard with focus and concentration, and without any distractions.

The need for providing a platform for women to step forward, and to stride ahead having closed ranks, was fulfilled by the establishment of the Pakistan Women’s Media Network. This was the message delivered by Tasneem Ahmer, the force behind the PWMN. She introduced the network and invited women in media to become members in order to tackle the under-representation of women in media, to present positive images of women on media, and to raise their voices against gender-based violence, injustice and biases in the media and in society.
The seminar came to a close with a tribute to the career achievements of Zuhra Karim, the long-serving publisher and editor of Pakistan’s first and foremost women’s magazine,She.

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