Sindh, Balochistan media groups join ILO’s gender equality drive

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Many media groups of Sindh and Balochistan have become part of the “National Media Partnership on Supporting Pakistani Women’s Empowerment” – an innovative alliance launched last week under a new initiative by the International Labour Organisation (ILO) at a roundtable conference held in Karachi recently.
The voluntary national partnership has been set up under the purview of a major new national project – “Gender Equality for Decent Employment (GE4DE)” – launched by ILO in Pakistan to promote gender equality in the world of work.
The National Media Partnership on Supporting Women’s Empowerment was launched last week in Peshawar and Lahore where it was endorsed by all mainstream media establishments from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Punjab, including TV channels, newspapers and radio stations. Like in Peshawar and Lahore, representatives of dozens of media houses from Sindh and Balochistan issued and signed a formal declaration that stated, “We the Pakistani media; comprising national and local newspapers, TV channels, radio stations, news agencies and online media from both the private and public sector, and all working journalists; recognise that we collectively and individually have a key role to play in empowering women by improving their public profile through a fair and representative coverage of working women. In this spirit, we hereby establish the National Media Partnership on Supporting Pakistani Women’s Empowerment to support and promote their rights and efforts for greater access to equal employment opportunities and decent working conditions. We commit ourselves to the highest journalistic standards on portrayal of working women in media so that various stakeholders have increased understanding and favourable attitudes towards working women’s issues. We also acknowledge and welcome the support of civil society for this landmark national media partnership.”
The participants of the conference supported the idea of a national coalition by the media that aims to improve professionalism on thematic issues, particularly with a focus on supporting empowering the working women of Pakistan by favouring a more balanced and non-stereotyped representation of women and men in the media and promote the gender equality dimension in their regulatory and self-regulatory authorities and training programmes.
 The media representatives also agreed that education and training are essential in order to learn how to recognize, be aware of and overcome gender stereotypes. The participants pointed out that while more women are entering the workforce, their visibility is not in the same proportion in media coverage.  
Introducing the GE4DE programme, ILO representative Rabia Razzaque said that the five-year project will, among other things, train over 5,000 women across Pakistan for employment not only in conventional skills typically considered areas of women’s expertise but also more unconventional areas in an attempt to enlarge the scope of employment opportunities for women as well as facilitating improved general perceptions about working women.
 “The ILO believes that gender equality in the world of work is a fundamental human right, critical to social justice and is instrumental in achieving poverty alleviation and gave several examples of successful interventions in Pakistan,” she said.
 Moneeza Hashmi, a renowned activist and former journalist, said that it is imperative that there be better treatment of women in the media through sound media education programmes and affirmative action. “By revisiting the programmes and news items which portray women in either dependent roles or in negative light, the media could not only be giving women their due but also encouraging greater acceptability of working women as positive role models,” she added.
She also stressed the need for policies within media that encourage and support affirmative action.
Adnan Rehmat, a media development specialist, while introducing the media component of GE4DE programme being implemented by Civic Action Resources, said that the project will engage both the media managers and media practitioners aiming at partnering up with the sector for improved coverage of working women. He said that 150 media managers will be oriented in the subject and garner their endorsement while 800 journalists will be trained across Pakistan on gender sensitisation to improve the quantity and quality of information about working women.  
“The project aims to develop a comprehensive training module and toolkit and use it to sensitize and train media personnel on international labour standards and gender sensitive reporting especially on women and the world of work in Pakistan,” he added.