An all-women TV news channel has begun broadcasting for the first time in Afghanistan, one of the most difficult countries to be a woman in media.
Named Zan TV (Womens’s TV), the station consists of female presenters and producers operating on a small budget in the country’s capital, Kabul. About 50 women, most of whom are students, work for the station. While the station is presented exclusively by women, it was created by Hamid Samar, a man, and 16 other males work behind the scenes, teaching the women who have had little access to media training and working in critical skills such as editing and camera operation.
“There has been a lot of talk about women’s rights and media rights,” Samar said, “but we’ve never seen anything special for women and that’s why we’ve done this.”
The station launched after a costly marketing campaign on social media and billboards in Kabul, the city that Samar thought most of Zan TV’s viewers would come from.
Twenty-year-old Khatira Ahmadi is a producer on the show and one of the only women on Zan TV’s team with prior experience in the media. “I am so happy that TV station has been created for women because there are women in our society who are not aware of their rights,” she said to Reuters. “So this station represents women and we work to raise the voice of women so they can defend their rights.” This is especially relevant in a country that was under the Taliban’s control until 2001.
“I came to share my experience with colleagues here,” she said, “and I am really happy working along with the other girls.”
But there’s no guarantee of success in Afghanistan’s crowded media scene. Zan TV will have to compete with about 40 other media stations, many which operate on a much larger budget.
It was difficult personally for the women who work for the station, too. Ahmadi has received death threats and had to deal with family members who disapproved of her involvement of the station.
While women’s rights were protected in the new constitution in 2003, Afghanistan is still a country in which many women are unable to make life-changing decisions at their own will. Fifty percent of women are either married or engaged by the age of 12, a statistic not helped by the widespread unrest left from the Taliban’s regime.
Many girls are also married early due to extreme poverty; their families hope to better their daughter’s life or their family as a whole. Selling a girl to repay a debt is more common in Afghanistan, since women are still considered by many to be the property of men.
These are the women that would be helped most Zan TV, though women in these areas will have the least access to the station, marketed heavily to those in metropolitan areas.
But the station will be crucial in generating awareness for women and providing a working example to the masses of what women can do.
It will be a long road filled with many injustices. In 2011, Afghanistan was named the most dangerous country in the world to be a woman by the Human Rights Watch. Every step towards equality is an important step for Afghanistan’s women, and it’s possible that Zan TV could start making many of those steps.
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