By Sadia Zahra
The Balochistan province is in the southwestern corner of Pakistan and is the largest of its four provinces in terms of area. It is home to a variety of ethnicities and languages, including Pashtun, Hazara, Brahui, Baloch, and various other ethnicities.
Even though Balochistan is one of the most important provinces in Pakistan it has been traditionally underrepresented in terms of access to resources and opportunities in the field of media. Women in particular face several obstacles in accessing the media platforms. Women typically have lower socio-economic status and face discrimination due to lower educational and patriarchal norms. In addition, honor-based violence limits their participation in the field of media. On the 5th of September, 2020 Shaheen Shah, a well-known PTV journalist from Turbat, was shot in the head in her own home and her husband was named as the suspect. The Baloch militants had repeatedly aggressively warned her to stop her job, as she had been an advocate for gender equality around Balochistan. Gender based discrimination is a grave danger to female reporters, who must be enabled to cover news and express their opinion without being fearful. Silencing the voices of female journalists in Pakistan profoundly damages the country’s freedom of the press and democracy.
In Balochistan, the representation of women in media is disappointingly low across the entire province, reportedly, there are only Seven women journalists and one sports journalist based in Quetta, including Anisa Shabir, Hamna MalikandMehak Shahid. Moreover, there is a lack of government and family support for women’s involvement in the media. Of the few universities offering journalism degrees in Balochistan, the University of Balochistan (UoB), Balochistan University of Information Technology, Engineering and Management Sciences (BUITEMS), and Sardar Bahadur Khan Women University (SBKWU) are in the list. Additionally, only one media project has been introduced for female filmmakers by Sharmeen-Ubaid Chinoy. Women who pursue a career in media ought to overcome deep-rooted cultural, social and economic pressures.
In Balochistan, people have Patriarchal norms and mindsets that creates barriers to women’s inclusion in the media by reinforcing traditional gender roles and reinforcing the idea that only men can perform certain tasks. This affects the way women are represented in the media, perpetuating stereotypes about women and limiting their ability to participate in the activities. Additionally, the lack of female representation in the media sends a message of prevalent gender discrimination, that women are not equal to men and are worthy of less coverage.
The need for greater investment in journalism and investment in female oriented media projects in Balochistan is essential. Media can be used as a powerful tool to engage and inspire female audiences and help them find their voices in society. Women are supposed to know the problems of other women and highlight them in a lot better way than men.
“The power of journalism lies in the voices of those unheard and unseen, so it’s especially important for women in journalism to listen and elevate perspectives of those who are historically marginalized.” – Allison Griner
Lack of investment in media projects will not only hinder female empowerment in Balochistan but will prevent a new generation from being able to access the right information and knowledge through media outlets. Without a strong media presence, it will be challenging to make meaningful change in Balochistan that improves the lives of many women who suffer from gender inequality, gender-based violence, and social exclusion. Investing in journalism and female oriented media projects can provide an essential platform to empower women through access to reliable and relevant information.
By promoting and amplifying women’s voices in media and journalism, we can help create more opportunities for them to be seen and heard. Providing internships, grants, and scholarships dedicated to women will encourage the aspiring female writers and editors. This will encourage creativity and allow women to pursue their dreams. Thus, through mentoring, the experienced female journalists and editors can expand their existing networks, while also being able to share their wisdom and skills with younger generations. Also, it is vital to provide women in Balochistan the resources required to participate in journalism. Providing equal access to news outlets and creating opportunities for these female journalists to report stories from their own perspectives is an essential step in advancing gender equality in media.
Participation of women in media can also raise awareness of female centric news issues such as women’s rights, access to health care, education, and economic opportunity, and create a platform for discussions of gender equality. Furthermore, it could help in the creation of laws and policies that aim to reduce gender-based discrimination in Balochistan. The support of women in media and journalism can help to create opportunities that will bring a critical attention to the issues faced by women in Balochistan. So, in this way, women in Balochistan can have the potential to become visible and assertive agents of change in the region.