Defying all odds, Afghan women strive to shine on TV screens
Afghanistan has come a long way from the devastation of unending wars. The ghost of rampant violence continues to haunt Afghans across the country, but life goes on.
Last week, the country’s Ministry of Culture and Information (MoCI) objected to some private channels for projecting women as “show pieces” just to attract the attention of viewers. It undermines the cultural norms and values of the country, according to the ministry. The ministry expressed concerns that the media houses in this war-torn country are just glamorizing their products with female faces instead of acknowledging and honoring women as equally skilled media professionals.
Among other sectors, the relative peace of the past decade or so has brought a boom in the field of media in Afghanistan hence creating opportunity for women as well. Following persistent criticism, the debate however, has become more intense about whether women are given the due respect as professional media persons or are they just ‘used as showpiece’, as some argue.
Sayeda Muzhgan, one of the deputies at the MoCI, told journalists in Kabul on Saturday that women’s presence in the media has reduced to a symbolic nature only. Speaking at a seminar on “Women in Media, Opportunities and Challenges”, she pointed out a number of challenges faced by women media professionals in Afghanistan. Sexual harassment remained among the top issues faced by women.
She also blamed that a number of female staffers just seek to attract more viewers by their beautiful faces and fancy make-up, which is unacceptable. The official however, stressed that despite all this, women’s roles should never be overlooked and they should be allowed to have at least 30 percent jobs in the private and public sector.
Fair Planet spoke to a number of female TV presenters for their views but many were too fearful to speak on this issue. “Situation is much better in Kabul but in the provinces many female journalists avoid using their true name or showing their face out of fear”, Wagma Fazli, a TV presenter based in the Afghan capital said.
She acknowledged that some media house do exploit their female staff in terms of marketing.
“You see the dilemma is that it has become very difficult for new comers to get nice jobs without any prior experience, this leads to many of them [girls] willing to accept terms that they would not otherwise”, she noted.
It is not that those private channels blamed for ‘westernization’ are airing programs that falls in A motion picture rating system (MPRS)’s category that can be considered not suitable for younger audience. The Afghan TV industry can be pronounced much conservative in this regard even if compared to the regional countries like Iran, Pakistan and India for that matter.
Talking at the same seminar, Mujib Khalwatgar, head of Afghanistan’s leading media rights organisation NAI, pointed out that having beautiful and presentable faces does not necessarily mean to put down all the achievements of a media to gorgeous female staff. He stressed upon the need for professionalism and regulation.
Nafisa Barakzai, another mid-career female TV presenter told FP she has quit appearing on screen for all the hassle she went through because of it for years. “I sacrificed a lot, no one was in favour of me appearing on the TV screen but I kept insisting for it for five years, but having seen no change for good in the society, I gave-up”.
Ms Barakzai is still working as a media professional in Afghanistan but only behind the scene. “It is still very courageous and bold for many girls like me to come out of home and work in the media industry”, she said.
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