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More Women in News and Views Uks-Wilson Centre Round Table

Networking & Advocacy > More Women in News and Views Uks-Wilson Centre Round Table

The Report


The report ‘More women in news & views’ is the outcome of monitoring activity performed on a selection of mainstream media in Pakistan.

Based on this monitoring an analysis was conducted to evaluate media products that illustrate gender roles and representation by the media. The women stereotypes present in the media were analysed. The strength of language in influencing people and catalyzing changes in society were investigated. The impact of certain assumptions and positions of women reinforcing women discrimination was also analysed.

The findings of the report indicate that women in news are under-represented and a proportion of news about them, though small, is biased and unfair. This journalistic stance, however, may not be deliberate but rather the result of people being ingrained into a system that has come to accept such action without questioning, let alone breaking, the trends. In their hectic gruel they hardly have time to revisit such issues and ideas.


The Roundtable


The aim of roundtable was to discuss how women can be brought forward in mainstream media and the type of coverage required to be given to women for a positive portrayal was also discussed.

Participants of the roundtable belonged to various areas of media industry. Recommendations addressing the issue of under representation and better portrayal of women in media were presented by participants.


The Discussion


The discussion revolved around the coverage and empowerment of Pakistani women through media.

It was discussed how women could be better portrayed and represented through and in media. The need to increase awareness among journalists and readers/ audience and to build their capacity to understand and differentiate between balanced, gender-just reporting and biased and gender insensitive reporting was highlighted. Specifically the need for sensitization of male journalists was focused. Journalists and media managers must work to bridge the responsibility gap.

The history of portrayal of women in print media has been both positive, negative. When there is a requirement of sensitizing media personal through discussions at seminars and workshops they have the misconception that they are invited to cover the event rather than to participate and contribute.

One instance was when desk officers from media were requested to come over for training by Uks research centre as a part of the HIV project. Instead of desk officers reporters were sent for coverage of the event. It is observed that newspaper editors are hardly ever interested in participation. They are more interested in publicity and reporting.

It was discussed that there is a need to monitor and improve upon the representation of women in mainstream media rather than observing their presence and portrayal in women specific editions of print media. Gender sensitive code of ethics for print media in Pakistan, is a document formulated by Uks. It addresses journalistic codes and ethics for gender-just reporting for the media. It may be used as a reference guide for media. The portrayal of women in commercials and billboards and use of derogatory vocabulary in newspapers was also brought forward.

Uks Radio programs which have brought to fore stories of many successful working women and young entrepreneurs were discussed. In Pakistan there is an immense requirement for fair representation of women in every area of life. Women and their issues should be treated and dealt with in a gender sensitive and gender just manner. Women should be given space in media through all angles. This involves not only the political or pitiful and exploited perspective but the encouraging stories about courageous and diligent women should be brought forward.

A few participants complained that there is not a substantial amount of information available to the print media regarding business women in Pakistan. Newspapers require fresh news everyday. Since they presume that women news is less so setting up a permanent place for it can lead to repeated news and this can in turn afford decrease the sales of their newspaper.

Two reasons for no or very little news regarding women were identified. The first reason is that lot of business that the women are doing is not reckoned reason being these businesses are not considered significant. The other reason is that NGOs need to be active in providing the media with some baseline research work and news rather than depending on media just for publicity purpose. Bridging the existing gap between NGOs and Media can be productive for brining about a positive change.

The issue of a lesser amount of resources for covering stories was discussed. The participants from media complained that NGOs only contacted them when they needed their reports to get published.

Existing stereotypes regarding the image of women in the society and the resulting social mind set was discussed. The issue of women not being able to go forward in their media profession especially print media was emphasized. In electronic media undue importance given to the glamour was highlighted. It was observed that more value was given to myths and predetermined ideas regarding women being the selling point in media, it was mutually agreed by participants that no genuine efforts were being made to break these myths. It was concluded that the human aspect should be the focal point and the issue of promotion and publicity should not overshadow it thus the privacy of each subject as a human being is an important issue, and needs to be protected by the media.


The Suggestions


Through focused and productive discussion at the round table conference many recommendations to bring about affirmative change were put forward by the participating media persons. Affirmative action was the strongest of all the recommendations. This must be followed at every possible level.

The underlying factors like family restrictions, male dominance and unfavorable workplace environment, discriminatory salary packages, lack of appreciation, lack of security services, transport facilities, separate toilet facilities, flexible working hours (adjustments in late working hours), often result in women themselves avoiding this profession and seeking more comfortable and rewarding work environments.

Creating a congenial workplace environment for women is an important aspect. Women at the workplace should be provided with equal opportunities and facilities in a way that they can comfortably work, perform and progress in the field regardless of their gender. If there are women colleges and women quota, affirmative actions are required in journalism/media as well.

There is a requirement of inducting more women in the field of media. The aim is that women have a better understanding of their issues and their presence in the field can lead to a better representation of their problems. Women need to be encouraged to join the field of media. This also needs to be done at educational institutions level. It can be achieved via mutual collaboration of educational institutions and media agencies by arranging and organizing seminars, workshops, talks etc.

Hard work, perseverance, right attitude, and positive approach can help solve most of the issues.

Another frequent suggestion from the participants was that students of mass communication should be trained at their educational institutions. Exposure to practical work through internships, technical training, research facilities, and other resources which can prepare women for fieldwork and technical tasks in the media industry, should be easily accessible or formally provided to the students by their educational institutions. The educational institutions are the place from where the students should take all the media ethics to media organizations to bring about a positive change. To achieve these, the media persons need to work in close collaboration with educational institutions. Students need to be sensitized about media before they practically enter the field. They need to differentiate between good and bad. This can later help them in becoming a reliable and consistent source of information.

The suggestion about consulting and collaborating with the Devolution Trust for Community Empowerment (DTCE) was put forward. DTCE is a “not-for-profit” non-governmental organization. It is working for the strengthening of Local Government system. Its programme includes Citizen Community Boards (CCBs) Mobilization, building association of Local Government and networks of CCBs, for consolidation of community empowerment process CCB works at the grass-root level. DTCE particularly encourages project proposed by women. It provides grants and funding for women development projects. Encouraging and inspirational stories of successful young woman belonging to the different strata of the society can be reached through their database.

People who are in places of importance need to be engaged. More representation of women in decision making position can also help achieve the aim. For example in electronic media it is important to have women in newsroom especially at decision making level such as editors and shift in charges. Increased participation of women in media as decision-makers and newsmakers is required to highlight news in a gender-sensitive manner and from a woman’s perspective.

Media has traditionally been a field which always remained male dominated .The ratio of male-female workers in the media is heavily imbalanced in favor of men. The number of sensitizers is less than those to be sensitized. Therefore Men need to be sensitized.

The focus is on sex appeal or physical beauty of women to sell a product and the stereotype that entails show-casing of woman as a defenseless, submissive, suffering woman needs to be changed. The aim should be to reduce sensationalism and commodification of women and their issues and use a gender-sensitive approach.

Women’s issues are reported as issues of an under-privileged group in our society rather than mainstream issues. Inappropriate pictures of foreign sports women are regularly published in print media these should be replaced by proper pictures of local sports women. Uncaptioned pictures from gatherings and events without the permission of subject should not be published. Women’s news should not be carried on less significant pages of the newspaper. The aim should be to increase coverage of women-related news in a manner that breaks negative stereotypes and helps to bring about positive behavioral changes in the society for acceptance of women as equal beings. The code of Ethics formulated and presented by Uks addresses different aspects of gender sensitivity in the print media including right to privacy, pictorial depiction of women, rectifying under representation of women and projection of gender roles in advertisements, amongst others. There is a requirement of institutionalizing the code of Ethics for the betterment of the industry.

It was recommended that the deeply rooted cultural and institutional constraints prevent Pakistani women from playing a fulfilling role in the development of their society. Persistence, hard work and determination can help achieve the objectives.

An important outcome of this Rountable was the commitment by some journalists (Amir Mateen, Zafar Abbas, Muhammad Malik, Mazahar Abbas and some others) to formulate a committee for affirmative action for women in media. This committee will have its first meeting early April 2009, to chalk out its line of action on how to get all media houses involved in this process.