Institute for War and Peace Reporting | Giving Voice, Driving Change
Afghan Women Leaving Journalism
Hila used to love her job at a privately-owned radio station in the eastern Afghan province of Nangarhar. She was heartbroken when the deteriorating security situation forced to give up her work as a journalist.
"I used to work in a local media outlet, but my family no longer allows me to do that,” Hila said. “They tell me not to leave the house, because the security situation is not good."
Media professionals in Afghanistan warn that the number of women working in journalism has fallen dramatically over the last three years due to a combination of security threats and family pressure.
The flourishing Afghan media scene was hailed as one of the success stories of the post-Taleban era. Female journalists played a particularly important role as they were able to report on social issues that male colleagues in this deeply conservative society found it harder to access.
Now, experts warn that women may be completely excluded from this field if the situation continued.
Mohammad Yusuf Jabarkhel, the head of the privately-owned Sharq TV channel in Nangarhar, said that his station had employed many women in the years following the fall of the Taleban.
Rising violence meant that most had left the field of media, he explained, although some continued to work in radio.
"When security was relatively fine, women wanted to work in the media alongside men, but female reporters do not feel safe now,” Jabarkhel continued. “A number of female activists and members of the provincial council were attacked here. Now families no longer allow their female members to work in the media."
Shazia, another former reporter, agreed that it was a combination of family pressure and fear of attack that made her give up work.
"I used to work for various media outlets in Nangarhar, but my family doesn’t let me work any more. It is not just the fear of the Taleban here. Our own relatives also threaten us in one way or another. They tell me that if I go to the radio again, I might be killed."
Pashtana, from Nangarhar’s department of information and culture, said that men needed to ensure women had a safe working environment.
Local officials had a particular responsibility to do so if they wanted women to be part of the media landscape, she said. Part of this involved confidence-building measures.
"If the government wants the media to develop, it must work on general attitudes,” Pashtana continued. “People are scared. They feel that security is bad and going to work in an office is not safe."
Abdullah Hod, head of the private Mazal local radio station, agreed that that the number of female workers had fallen, but said that this was due more to economic factors rather than the fear of violence.
“Female reporters face many problems such as a lack of security and restrictions form their families, but the biggest problem is that radios don’t have enough money to pay salaries."
Ataullah Khugyani, the spokesman for Nangarhar’s governor, said that the administration was committed to helping women continue working in the media.
“Female reporters really have problems in Nangarhar, but the provincial government has done more to help them than their male counterparts. We have received reports of the main problems and we aim to work closely with female reporters."
Abdul Muhid Hashimi, the head of an Afghan journalist advocacy group, agreed that female journalists faced challenges all around the country. The situation was particularly bad in Nangarhar, he added, calling for the government and media officials to try and find tailor-made solutions to keep women working in this field.
“Female reporters face all kinds of problems,” he continued. “Security officials and those who own the media outlets must pay close attention to the concerns of female reporters. They should provide them with job opportunities and take into consideration both the security problems and the restrictions imposed by their families."
This report was produced under IWPR’s Promoting Human Rights and Good Governance in Afghanistan initiative, funded by the European Union Delegation to Afghanistan.
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