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Challenges of becoming a journalist in a restrictive society

23/12/2020

Maryam Anam is an aspiring young radio journalist in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, a region in north-west Pakistan where women's voices are rarely heard. She is being trained through the Valley Voices project led by the Tribal News Network supported by Thomson Media.

In a conservative Pashtun society where women are barred from participating in public life, we need to have women journalists to highlight womens voices because they have easier access to and can understand womens issues better than male reporters.

Usually, women are not allowed to talk to men outside their family or give interviews about their issues, so for them to be able to talk to us about their rights force us, even as women journalists, to seek permission from a male member of their family.

Radio is an important and accessible medium in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province and tribal areas of Pakistan to empower people particularly women with timely and relevant information.

Most of the population in Pashtun areas specifically women have not been educated and cannot read and write which makes radio a primary source of information for them.

Male dominated society I want to create awareness among women as well as the general public about womens issues.

The challenges for a woman to become a journalist begins at home. Take the example of my family which is not in favour of journalism as a career for women as it exposes them to meeting people in a male dominated society where women often wear veils. But my father is backing and respecting my desire to become a journalist.

Valley Voices We had several training workshops as part of the Valley Voices project. The training on the ethics of journalism has helped me understand that the information we collect for reporting stories must be accurate and verified from at least two authentic and relevant sources.

Women are vulnerable to many issues when they go out of the home for work. They experience sexual harassment at educational institutions, in the street, workplaces, and on public transport. Recently, an eight year old girl was raped and killed. If a child of eight years is not safe, how can women can feel protected and not be concerned about their security?

During the three day security training workshop we had a session on anti-harassment laws led by Ms Khursheed Banu, head of Hawa Lor, an organisation working for women and transgender rights. She detailed the laws that protect women against harassment and explained the complaint mechanisms and processes in place that could be used to sue the harassers.

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Mental health We also learnt that, while we are concerned about our physical safety, we care less about our mental health. The safety training instructor Muhammad Tahir shared tips on how we can relax when we feel stressed or depressed and maintain our mental well-being. We now understand that psychological safety is as important as physical and digital safety.

Risk assessment exercises and mitigation strategies were also important lessons in the training.

After being trained by Tribal News Network (TNN) in the basics of journalism, I am more passionate about doing stories on topics like women's empowerment, education, and health.

I want to raise a voice for my people and help solve their issues through balanced and responsible reporting in media.

The role of women journalists deserves respect, appreciation in patriarchal societies Maryam is one of 12 aspiring young women journalists being trained by Tribal News Network. University student Sana Gul shares her experiences in an article on the TNN news website here.

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