Wednesday, 19 January, 2022

Gender Landscape In Nepali Media

Dr. Kundan Aryal

The day after tomorrow, the world is celebrating the International Women's Day with a robust believe that an equal world is an enabled world. While celebrating International Women's Day, every one of us needs to inquire ourselves that how we could contribute to forging a gender-equal world. We can celebrate women's achievements, raise awareness against biases and try to take action for equality. This is a cross-cutting issue connected to the entire realms of society.
Whenever we start a discourse on the evolving concept of substantive equality for women, the role and responsibilities of the mass media and popular culture come to be in the centre stage. In comparison to the past, today the representations of women in the mass media have been altered to a larger extent. However, being a subsystem within society as a system, a resilient demand of the time has been directed towards the mass media outlets of all types to bring in more women and ensure their meaningful presence in the field. The demand is also posed for the favourable plans and policies to retain capable women journalists in the mass media.
The tradition of celebrating a day dedicated to women of the world was started in a different context. It was the time when men and women were not considered equal in many aspects. Today, though the perspectives vary with the society, there are the international laws which assured the equalities. Most of the countries have domestic laws that negate gender inequality. Today, all the spheres of society embrace the widespread notion of gender equality. Here, an obvious question would arise: Then what is the scenario of mass media world? Women and men usually equal in today's newspapers, radio talk-shows, movies and TV shows and online presentations. But the matter is not so simple and that is the general observation over the surface.
First, today's mass media are gradually liberating themselves from the stereotypes in the context of representations of women. Thus the relationship between media and gender identities has been changing. Likewise, mass media outlets, even in Nepal, are trying to be sensitive in the case of women’s representations.
Second, the medium of mass communication is one of the central elements of modern life. In that capacity, to a larger extent in our context too, they are reflecting and manifesting the society and societal movements. In this connection, a strong belief is that until and unless a considerable number of women are involved in the process of the media content production, justice cannot be done to the gender landscape. The idea encourages women to join the media profession and enhance their visibility in the Nepali media-world. Therefore, a quest for professional and quantitative growth of women journalists is relevant.
A wider level of understanding has been surfacing that the modern Western world is an odd mix of equal and unequal in the case of men and women. Moreover, it has been observed by the experts that women and men may feel equal, but at the same time they are aware that this is not entirely accurate. Today women have the formal right to accomplish most works that a man can do, and vice versa. In our context too, we are increasingly rejecting out-dated ideas regarding gender roles.
Even blurred visibility of women in the field of mass media was noticed only after the political changes of 1951, the gateway of modernity in Nepal. The Nepali mass media, the short-lived newspapers of that time, were not seen sensitive to the gender issues until the advent of the media proliferation in the aftermath of the People's Uprising of 1990. The stereotypical representations of women in the Nepali mass media were almost common even in the 1990s and roughly up to the early years of 2000. These days, especially after the country's transformation towards the Federal Republic during the early half-decade of the millennium, things have changed at at the surface. However, there is a strong interrogation over the gender landscape of contemporary Nepali media. The question of the physical presence of women in the newsroom and the decision making level of the media is thus pertinent. Absence of women in the key positions would induce the chances for inequalities.
The real world of the Nepali mass media is not that much encouraging as International Federation of Journalists' report, shows that only 24 per cent of the total journalists in Nepal are women. It reveals that very few are seen as editors or publishers. Male domination in the workplace and elsewhere, social and economic factors were shown as the reasons behind women’s low involvement in the media. Four years ago, Sancharika Samuha, a forum of women journalists and communicators, conducted a nationwide survey among the women journalists to assess the situation. It found that among the surveyed 1,143 women, 62.1 per cent said they worked for radio. Only 10.7 per cent were engaged with televisions, 22.6 per cent worked for the print media and 0.7 per cent were involved in online media. The survey reveals that in the case of newspapers, women are junior reporters. Only a handful of female journalists hold senior or executive posts in the Nepali media.
Generally, women journalists in Nepal are still not considered on par with their male counterparts. The situation itself is a challenge towards the expectation of justice on gender issues. In a world where the formal rights of women are yet to be translated into the practice, the physical presence of women in the Nepali media outlets needs to be encouraged. Gender balance in the place of content feeding and processing would make the outcomes more gender-friendly.

(Dr. Aryal is associated with the Central Department of Journalism and Mass Communication of Tribhuvan University.)