Dr. Sumaira Gul
PESHAWAR: The departure of Saba Khan, a former journalist, from the media industry has brought to the forefront the challenges faced by female reporters in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. Khan’s decision to quit the industry, fueled by frustration over being consistently assigned soft beats, sheds light on the limitations that female journalists encounter when confined to specific topics. Her departure serves as a poignant reminder of the urgent need for change, highlighting the detrimental impact that such assignments can have on the professional growth and advancement of female reporters.
Khan’s experience serves as a striking example of the prevalent gender biases within media organizations, where female reporters are often confined to soft beats. This practice not only hampers their career progression but also represents a loss of valuable talent within the industry. It underscores the importance of providing equal opportunities for female journalists to explore a wide range of reporting topics, breaking free from the confines of traditional gender stereotypes.
Rifat Anjum, a senior journalist and Media Manager at the Peshawar Institute of Cardiology, echoes the concerns raised by Saba Khan. Anjum reveals that female reporters assigned to soft beats face various challenges, including limited access to scholarships and fellowships, many of which are focused on hard news reporting. This discrepancy further reinforces the need for expanding the range of assignments for female reporters, ensuring they have equal access to professional opportunities and growth.
Anjum’s extensive experience in the media industry, covering both soft and hard news stories, underscores the capability of female reporters to excel in any reporting domain. By assigning them diverse beats, media organizations can unlock their full potential and create a pathway for their professional growth and development.
Statistical data provided by the Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists paints a concerning picture of gender disparity within the media industry. With only around 5% of the estimated 20,000 journalists in Pakistan being women, it is evident that concerted efforts are needed to address this imbalance. Similarly, data from the Peshawar Press Club indicates that out of the 550 registered journalists, only 15 are female, spread across different media organizations.
Shahida Perveen, the sole female reporter in The Express Media Group in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, stands as a testament to the capabilities of female reporters. With her 20 years of experience, Perveen firmly challenges the notion that female journalists are incapable of covering hard issues. Having successfully tackled health beats and various other topics, she emphasizes the importance of breaking stereotypes and providing equal opportunities for all journalists based on their skills and expertise.
Sheeba Haider, a dedicated reporter at Geo TV Peshawar, adds her voice to the conversation surrounding the challenges faced by female journalists in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. Haider emphasizes the significance of providing equal opportunities to female journalists, enabling them to cover a wide range of topics and contribute to a more diverse and inclusive media landscape.
Haider, having experienced the industry firsthand, understands the barriers that female journalists often encounter. She believes that assigning beats based on capabilities rather than gender stereotypes is essential for fostering a supportive environment. By allowing female journalists to explore a wide range of topics, media organizations can tap into their unique perspectives and experiences, enriching the overall quality and diversity of reporting.
Haider further recognizes that a more inclusive media landscape benefits not only female journalists but also society as a whole. Diversifying the topics covered by female reporters ensures that a wider range of stories and perspectives are represented, leading to a more comprehensive and nuanced understanding of issues and fostering greater public engagement and awareness.
Moreover, Haider highlights that providing equal opportunities for female journalists extends beyond beat assignments. It involves supporting their professional development through training, mentorship, and access to resources. By investing in their growth and nurturing their talent, media organizations can empower female journalists to reach their full potential and make a lasting impact in their field.
Haider’s advocacy for equal opportunities resonates with the broader push for gender equality within the media industry. Her perspective reflects the growing awareness of the importance of diversity and inclusion, not only in terms of gender but also in terms of the range of topics covered by reporters. By embracing these principles, media organizations can break free from traditional stereotypes and create an environment that promotes innovation, creativity, and excellence.
In conclusion, Sheeba Haider’s voice adds weight to the call for equal opportunities for female journalists in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. By allowing them to cover a wide range of topics, media organizations can unlock their full potential and contribute to a more diverse and inclusive media landscape. It is through the collective efforts of individuals like Haider that positive change can be achieved, fostering an environment where all journalists, regardless of their gender, can thrive and make meaningful contributions.
Arshad Aziz Malik, President of the Peshawar Press Club, acknowledges the need for reform within the industry. He emphasizes the importance of assigning beats based on capabilities rather than gender stereotypes, creating an environment where female journalists can excel and contribute meaningfully.
The collective voice of these individuals, along with the growing recognition of gender disparities, calls for immediate action. Media organizations must reconsider their approach to beat assignments, ensuring that opportunities for growth and development are available to all reporters, regardless of their gender. By dismantling barriers and embracing diversity, the industry can harness the full potential of its female reporters, empowering them to make a lasting impact in their field.
As the spotlight shines on this issue, there is hope for a more inclusive and equitable media landscape in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. It is crucial to create an environment where female journalists can thrive, where their skills and expertise are valued, and where they are given equal opportunities to contribute to the dynamic field of journalism. The time for change is now, and through collective efforts, the media industry can pave the way for a more inclusive future.