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Raised voices: Giving women a voice in local media

05/03/2021

A unique research project in a remote district of north-west Pakistan has helped to empower women and give them a voice in local media.

Thomson was approached by Tribal News Network (TNN) - a pioneering radio station based in Peshawar - to help it discover which news and information was of interest to women.

In a region with a patriarchal and conservative outlook, literacy levels for women are low with radio often their main source of news - but no-one had previously asked them which topics they wanted to hear about.

The results of the research were then used to inform the training of 12 women journalists (pictured above).

TNN was set up to bring independent, relevant information to the population in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) province. The station bucks the trend by recruiting and promoting women at reporter and management levels in a region where societal pressure, and vulnerability to sexual harassment in the workplace, discourage women from working in the media.

In a conservative Pashtun society, we need to have women journalists to highlight women's voices.

Maryam Anam, Valley Voices trainee

The seven-month project, called Valley Voices, was developed between Thomson Media gGmbH in Berlin and Said Nazir, co-founder of TNN. First, a number of female researchers were recruited and given security training to operate in KP's Mardan district - a relatively hostile area with a population of 2.3 million.

During the pandemic, a Thomson expert worked online with TNN staff and the researchers to advise them on survey techniques which led to 386 women being questioned.

The results were evaluated by local Pakistani and international experts and translated into recommendations from which the editorial training programme was devised.

All but two of the 12 the participants on the training course had studied journalism at university, and two were experienced TNN journalists.

Editorial training was done remotely by Andrew North, a former international BBC correspondent familiar with reporting from south Asia. He provided a series of live, online training session with participants also taking two Thomson online training courses in Urdu covering editorial ethics and mobile journalism.

Maryam Anam, a political science graduate, was one of the trainees. In a conservative Pashtun society, where women are barred from participating in public life, we need to have women journalists to highlight women's voices, she says.

Once in the field, the journalists set about their tasks with zeal and provided an array of thought-provoking stories for Women's Voices, a weekly magazine programme developed as a result of the research.

Among the subjects covered were:

Child marriage

Sexual harassment

Female literacy and education

Health and dental care

Sport and recreation for women

Working from home

Women's inheritance rights

As a result of more gender-inclusive programming, TNN increased its revenue by 24 per cent, helping it toward sustainability.

The topics created debate from all sides of the gender divides, with the audience encouraged to comment through text messages, telephone calls and social media. More than 500 listeners responded, with 90 per cent giving positive feedback on the content, programmes, producers, presenters and reporters.

Main image: The 12 journalists involved in the Valley Voices project are Hina Gul, Mahnoor Shakeel, Fatma Durrani, Maryam Anam, Sidra Ayan, Amna Istimraj, Hina Wajid, Sana Gul, Sheeba Faris, Sidra Khan, Kainat Ali and Huma Hashim.

This project was funded by the German Federal Foreign Office through IFA (Institute for Foreign Cultural Relations) as part of the Zivik funding programme. It was administered from Berlin by Thomson Media gGmbH.

Related content

Maryam Anam on the challenges of becoming a journalist in a restrictive society

Enhancing political participation of women in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa

Enumerator, Naveeda Naz, asks female radio listeners about the issues that matter to them most

Explore our projects across the globe
LINK: http://www.thomsonfoundation.org/latest/raised-voices-giving-women-a-v...
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