KATHMANDU, Dec 10: "I did journalism for more than a decade combining the stints at an FM radio and a television. But I did not like to return to this profession after a break. Actually, I had no option but to quit it for me entering the motherhood, because I was neither paid during the leave nor guaranteed of job at the media house after the leave. Rather, I felt guilty- why I stuck to that field for such a long time. I even pity on the male colleagues- how they manage their family, as they too are paid meager salary!"
This is an account of a female journalist who spent 13 years of her energetic time in Nepali media and felt, as the account suggests, dejected, disgraced, and remorseful. Why? Is Nepali media such hostile to women? Don’t they feel safe in media? How long does it exist?
Equality is not a new term, and gender discrimination is too the trite in Nepali society. Patriarchy and male-prerogative are blamed most in majority of the sectors.
These very jargons depict the biting reality despite some exception that women have taken lead- climbed atop the official posts- Nepal has already been successful to install women as the President, Speaker and Chief Justice. Aren't these facts to celebrate? Of course, but gender discrimination is still so prevalent that it is one of the most discouraging factors for Nepali women to enjoy media for long.
There are only few points with Vice-Chairperson of the Federation of Nepali Journalists (FNJ), Anita Bindu, to negate the bitter account of a female journalist (who wanted to remain anonymous).
Vice-Chairperson Bindu, however, said, as the umbrella organization of the journalists working in various media cross the country, FNJ, undoubtedly has been advocating for the journalists' rights. "FNJ helps journalists to sort out problems with their media owners. Sometime, FNJ teams have reached to different media to facilitate in solving dispute so that working journalists could continue this profession feeling safe and secure," she argued, but admitted that discrimination against women journalists is so severe that disgraces them in the media. Whether it is in payment or giving opportunity within media, women are not prioritized, Vice-Chairperson Bindu added.
Against the advocacy and the facilitation efforts of FNJ, the woman journalist who ditched journalism and began teaching lately, said, "Such organization only talks of policy issues and principles, but many journalists are victimized in media houses."
However, both of them agree that the discrimination (in terms of providing FNJ membership, payment, opportunity, training) harassment, and negative social perspective to women journalists are equally deterring factors for them to continue this profession.
According to the FNJ record, there are 16.5 % women journalists out of the total 10,077. The participation of women is increasing in Nepali media. Most of the women journalists are working as news readers at FM radio and televisions. It suggests they are not given/or do not want to do risky task of field reporting.
Participation of women in any field makes the sector inclusive and proportional. Inclusion and proportional representation are the strong bases for a functional democracy. Equal participation of women not only boost such values but also help bring change in practical life- most importantly the empowerment of women. And, the empowerment of women is indeed a base of holistic development. The educated and empowered women make their entire families educated and capable.
Despite laudable theoretical approaches and legal reforms, the fourth Estate- journalism- has not been able to retain women. Women's happiness in Nepali media is elusive.
Special package for women, timely and adequate payment, gender-friendly atmosphere are the essentials that ensure equal participation of women in Nepali media, argues, the journalist who left this profession.
Similarly, the FNJ Vice-Chairperson shares that the FNJ statute was being amended by increasing female journalists in the organization. The progress she mentions to this regard is the umbrella organization has formulated a gender-friendly directive for media and submitted to the line ministry for approval, which she claims would help retain women in media.
Journalism itself is an advocacy tool. But the disappointing situation of the journalists, especially the female ones, in Nepali media, needs improvement with practical changes- men's perspective to women-which again is the common social problem. Therefore, engaging male colleagues for the rights of women journalists may be an option to wage to improve the status of women journalists. RSS