Aurat Publication & Information Service Foundation
Women journalists demand 33% seats at decision-making level in journalistís unions, Lahore


Women journalists demand 33% seats at decision-making level in journalistís unions

Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ) and Aurat Foundation (AF) jointly organized an All-Pakistan Women Journalists Convention (APWJC) in Lahore on May 2, 2014.

Around 150 women journalists from all parts of the country took part in the convention and unanimously passed the Lahore Declaration which was presented at the concluding session.

Federal Minister for Information, Broadcasting and National Heritage, Senator Pervaiz Rasheed was the Chief Guest at the concluding session. President PFUJ Mr Afzal Butt, senior lawyer and former Chairperson Supreme Court Bar Association Ms Asma Jahangir, Ms Zakia Shahnawaz, Minister for Population Welfare, Punjab, senior journalist Ms Moneezah Hashmi, politician and activist Ms Bushra Aitazaz, senior journalist and activist Ms Jugnu Muhsin and AF's Director Advocacy Rabeea Hadi spoke on the occasion. They expressed solidarity with journalists and called for protecting freedom of speech.

The Lahore Declaration - authored by PFUJ after recording the concerns of female journalists - got unanimous approval of the participants from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Balochistan, Sindh, Punjab, and Gilgit-Baltistan.

The declaration demands that all female journalists be given press club membership and seats in club elections; allocation of 33 per cent seats for women journalists in PFUJ and other decision-making bodies as well as Pakistan Press Council; provision of basic facilities in media houses (including day-care centers, separate washrooms and rest rooms); establishment of sexual harassment complaint committees in every media house, union offices and press clubs under the Protection Against Harassment of Women at Workplace 2010 Act.

It also calls for provision of transport facilities for women journalists; paid three-month maternity leave for female journalists as per ILO Convention; equality in pay structure: beat distribution and exposure opportunities; insurance cover (as given to male colleagues); 10 per cent quota in working women hostels, welfare schemes for retired female journalists; free healthcare for women and their dependants; and provision of loans for female journalists.

In his inaugural speech, Mr Afzal Butt made a commitment that National Press Club Islamabad and PFUJ would reserve seats for female journalists for the positions of vice-president, assistant secretary-general and governing body member. He recommended regional press clubs adopting similar constitutional amendments to enhance women representation.

Butt condemned the recent dismissal of women media persons from service due to maternity leave requests and said that paid maternity leave was the right of every female journalist. He saluted Pakistanís female journalists for their resilience and admirable work ethic despite encountering rampant misogyny in both the field and office.

The PFUJ president said the government should monitor implementation of labour laws in the media houses and ensure working journalists receive sufficient healthcare coverage and old age pension.

Mr Pervaiz Rashid said PML-N government was sensitive to the concerns of women workers and would consider the recommendations featured in the APWJC declaration in future policies and schemes. He announced that proposal of transferring secret fund of the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting to endowment fund for journalists is under consideration. A special prosecutor would also be appointed by the federal government to represent the cases of journalists under attack, he added.

Director Advocacy for Aurat Foundation Ms Rabeea Hadi termed it unfortunate that women journalists raise voice for the rights of other sections of the society but nothing substantial had been done to protect the rights of women in media. She called for women representation at decision-making level of journalistís unions and media regulatory bodies.

Women journalists in both print and electronic media from across Pakistan shared their experiences at the convention. Issues raised included verbal and psychological abuse from male colleagues, challenges in contesting press club elections, soft beats for women journalists, mistreatment in the field, discrimination against women photo journalists, lack of women chief reporters and editors, infighting between female reporters, little family support and patronizing male attitude.