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'Large number of women in media are being pushed into freelance roles'

Our Bureau New Delhi | Updated on January 24, 2018 Published on March 08, 2015

More women joining the media world, but top positions still elude them, says IFJ's Asia-Pacific report

More and more women are joining the media world in India, but continue to be stuck in the middle and lower rungs of the profession, says an Asia-Pacific report, released by the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ), supported by UNESCO and UN Women, on the occasion of International Women’s Day on March 8.

The report said while more men are found in full-time contract roles, ​​a large number of women in India are moving or being pushed into freelance roles.

Noting that while the advantage of class, caste and higher education has seen some women climb to the top rungs of the profession in India, sexual harassment remains a critical issue for the industry, the report said.

“In many countries across the Asia-Pacific, there has been a progressive and positive growth in the numbers of women in newsrooms, working as freelancers and in the online space as bloggers, writers and people of influence….But the IFJ is also acutely aware that the media is still very male dominated when the top positions are examined,” IFJ deputy director, Jane Worthington said in a statement.

The IFJ ‘media and gender’ country reports detail the experience of journalists at work and in their unions in seven countries across South Asia, South East Asia and the Pacific comprising Cambodia, India, Malaysia, Nepal, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Vanuatu.

While the countries have many commonalities, each country has its own experience and particular issues and areas of concern, some of which are summarised below.

For women journalists in Cambodia, often the greatest challenge is overcoming cultural barriers and stereotypes that means many women are not encouraged, or in fact actively deterred, to join journalism.

In Malaysia, there is a strong female workforce and pay for media workers is the most balanced of all countries in the study, IFJ said.

In Nepal, the lack of security in women’s employment and poor working conditions has created a sense of fear and instability among women journalists who occupy just a quarter of the media industry.

Pakistan, which has a vibrant media industry, continues to overcome many obstacles and challenges. “The country also has one of the worst gender imbalances evidenced in the research in terms of the gender pay gap,” the report said, adding that women within the industry are regularly challenging this status quo on gender rights issues and sexual harassment.

In Sri Lanka, where journalists are regularly threatened, intimidated and often killed, it is little surprise that gender issues and inequities are sidelined over safety, IFJ said.

The report also noted the inherent stereotyping that pushes women journalists to cover ‘soft beats’ such as gender issues, arts and culture.

Completed as part of a major regional research study conducted by journalists across the region, supported by UNESCO and UN Women, the IFJ country reports were completed by journalists across the region with information derived from nearly 700 media workers in August and September 2014.

Published on March 08, 2015
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