KATHMANDU, March 9: Media experts and journalists of South Asia have called for a systematic structural change in the media outlets of the region to break the bias and to accelerate women’s equal participation in leadership roles.
These observations and insights came during the South Asia Panel discussion on “Accelerating Women’s Equal Participation in Media”, organized by Media Action Nepal to observe the 112th International Women’s Day on March 8. The hour-long virtual session comprised panelists from six South Asian countries -- Sri Lanka, India, Bhutan, Bangladesh and Nepal along with a keynote speaker from Pakistan.
Presenting a grim picture of the South Asian media ownership modality, Laxman Datt Pant, chairperson of Media Action Nepal and the co-chair of the Media Freedom Coalition-Consultative Network (MFC-CN), urged, "The region requires an immediate structural transformation in the media ownership to encourage women journalists to lead newsrooms and take decision-making roles." This can be done through policy revisions and reflections of the gender sensitive indicators in actions to ensure that an enabling environment is created in terms of recognition and respect, Pant added.
Similarly, Dr Sadia Jamil, chair of the Journalism Research and Education Section at International Association of Media and Communication Research (IAMCR), emphasized that gender inequality is rooted in culture across South Asia and goes beyond the newsroom. As women working in the media or for the promotion of gender equality in media, it is important to understand that strong women or strong journalists are not born but rather are created by embracing the challenges they face, she added.
Pallavi Sareen, editor-in-chief of the Straight Line in India, said, “Due to the existing gender stereotypes, it is difficult for women journalists to go to the field and collect the news. People would not want to share their stories with women journalists as they think women journalists will not take their stories where it needs to be.” Adding to that, she also shared that it is important to have women journalist’s support groups so they can help each other.
Nasima Akter Soma, president of Bangladesh Nari Sangbadik Samity (Bangladesh Female Journalists Association) said, “For women journalists to move ahead in their career, it is important they have support from fellow male journalists. Women can be at decision-making positions in the media only with the support from fellow male journalists.”
Similarly, Tashi Dema, a senior journalist of Bhutan, said, “Women journalists should be trained and mentored as necessary for their career growth and to ensure they make up to the decision-making level based on meritocracy.”
The panel discussion moderated by Durga Rana Magar, Gandaki Province Coordinator of Media Action Nepal, was attended by over 50 journalists and media professionals of the region.
Media Action Nepal, a member of the MFC-CN, has been promoting a gender sensitive working environment and gender sensitive media content through capacity building and research initiatives in Nepal and across South Asia.