Life of Working Woman in media, Challenges and Impacts

Men and women are always two sides of the same coin. Each one of them has their unique charm and each one thinks and handles the issues (or) situation differently. According to census 2017, women comprise 48.76 % of the total population of the country, which means almost half the people in Pakistan are women. Gender equality and economic development go hand in hand and unless we make our women economically independent we will be unable to curb the huge gender gap.

In Pakistan, women are brought up under male dominance in their family, social relations and in society as well. As a matter of fact, they are asked by their mothers, elders to give ‘more importance’ to the male family members than their own selves. Girls understand this reality in their early ages that their father and brothers are just like a strong shade for them and more like an iron wall between them and the society as far as their security matters. In corporate culture, where people of both gender participate in all activities with equal vigor and enthusiasm such unclear differentiation is the biggest challenge for a woman. The Employment-to-Population Ratio (EPR) is 20% for female workers and 64% for male workers. The EPR represents the share of unutilized labour in an economy. Pakistan’s current labour underutilization rate for women workers is 80%. The Labour Force Survey 2014-15 indicates that women are concentrated in agriculture (72%), manufacturing (14%) and community and personal services (11%). In the case of occupational groups, women are mostly working as skilled agricultural workers (62%), unskilled workers (15%) and craft related trade workers (13%).

When we talk about women in media, many working women especially journalists, TV anchors, writers, reporters; they face lot of problems associated with their gender at working place i.e. women harassment, male dominance, official restrictions, unfavorable workplace environment, lack of training facilities, lack of security and inflexible working hours. “Very few women journalists make it to the top; it’s still mostly men,” said Hanna Ibrahim, Editor of English Language Newspaper Ceylon Today. Male bosses try to snub women off and on in their offices in Pakistan and they also misuse their authority over women workers in official hours. Sometimes women are forced to please the bosses or seniors ‘in the way’, they want. Working women issues are closely associated with the pressure build from their family, economic issues and official job stress. Sometimes they ignore their home, husband and kids just to keep their jobs smooth and balanced for them.

It is never an easy job to be a ‘successful female journalist’ in media, because this journey is very tough and women face lot of hardships, ignore many pressures, sometimes they get scandalized too within the organization. Male colleagues tag them with some male senior colleague or with some known journalist and gossip about them. The strength of working women lies in facing the public, family and professionals with grace and ignoring the small talks. According to a female journalist, “Women journalists are not assigned any important news like crime and serious political issues. Many families have the perception that women are not respected in media. They are also paid less than their male colleagues,” she said. Besides facing such tough problems, they try their best to serve the society and continue their jobs for economic stability and also to support their husband by means of finances.

Another major issue is that mostly after completion of education; women get married or prefer to get married in Pakistan. Even if they start doing jobs, they have to ‘Answer’ many questions raised by family members over a period of time. The challenge is to cope with all such questions and keep the trust and respect of their family heads too. In some cases, women are not allowed to continue their jobs after getting married because the in laws do not wish for career-oriented women. One TV anchor told that she decided to continue her job and career in media, for this purpose, her family delay her marriage.

As far as the matter of women harassment is concerned, in January 2017, PML-F’s Nusrat Sehar Abbasi was well into her second tenure in the Sindh assembly and accustomed to the frequent jeering and heckling by certain male legislators from the ruling party. Nonetheless, she decided enough was enough when PPP’s Imdad Pitafi invited her to come to his chamber for a ‘satisfactory response’ to a question she had asked, which prompted laughter from other members of the ruling party. She even threatened to immolate herself if he did not resign. Many women lawmakers suffer inappropriate teasing behavior by men to publicly demean them. In June 2016, the Defence Minister Khawaja Asif called PTI’s Shireen Mazari a ‘tractor trolley’; in April 2017, PPP’s Khurshid Shah remarked that women would ‘fall ill’ if prevented from ‘chattering’; in Nov 2014, JUI-F’s Fazlur Rehman claimed PTI’s female supporters were of ‘bad character’.
There are two legal provisions that govern sexual harassment throughout Pakistan: section 509 of the Pakistan Criminal Penal Code and the Protection Against Harassment of Women at the Workplace Act of 2010. Women are already reluctant to come forward with allegations of sexual harassment in a country where many still blame the woman themselves for such wrongs. In Punjab, 134 cases reached the ombudsperson during the last five years and office received 98 complaints from 2014 onwards.

Data by Punjab Commission on Status of Women (PCSW) and the ombudsperson’s office states that 38% of these cases were withdrawn, 43% accused received punishment and the suspects in 18% cases were exonerated. The survey conducted (by Dawn) through online questionnaires and interviews in Karachi, Islamabad, Lahore, Peshawar and Quetta collated responses from women in the workforce, across professions and industries, to gauge experiences of sexual harassment and whether workplaces have anti-sexual harassment policies in place. Sexual harassment is a question of ‘power’ and ‘authority’ over women. The Protection Against Harassment of Women at the Workplace Act is aimed essentially at behaviour correction of men with women. Only a mindset change will make workplaces safer for women.

In my opinion, working women deserve lot of honour and respect not from family only but also from this society as well. They work really hard to make their place in the presence of male colleagues and partners. They also need to be appreciated, promoted and encouraged as per performance and work standards.

Mr. Jinnah publicly depicted his idea of women as “active nation builders”. It is the need of hour that this significant half of our population is given respect and enablement to become economic contributors for a progressive Pakistan. Women can give you cultured and responsible future within family and mature minds for the society.

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By Maliha Sami Hussain
Media Analyst and Communication Expert
Lahore
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