Pakistan Media Project Aims to Change Attitudes about Women
An innovative initiative has worked for the past five years help the media in Pakistan examine the way women are portrayed and develop more balanced and positive approaches reports the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).
The project has trained 400 media professionals, helping them develop ways to present women in Pakistan in a new light in programmes aired by the Pakistan Television Corporation and ensure that all the corporation's productions are sensitive to the issue of gender and avoid reinforcing biases against women.
The media in Pakistan often portray both women and men in ways that reinforce prejudices, researchers have found. Women are frequently presented as weak, dependent and uninformed, while men are usually portrayed as aggressive, manipulative and insensitive.
The project has established a system to monitor how women are portrayed on television. It commissions TV productions on gender issues, has helped integrated gender issues into television training curricula and has brought together media professionals to examine and address issues concerning gender and media. The initiative is also helping organize regional and international film festivals dealing with gender themes.
"Ingrained attitudes towards women can only be changed by a persistent nationwide effort," said Onder Yucer, UNDP Resident Representative. "The mass media, especially television, is the ideal arena for this because of its obvious influence on people's prejudices and social behavior."
A workshop in Lahore earlier this month on gender and creativity for drama production brought together 25 television producers and writers from all over the country.
With support from the British Council and the Asia-Pacific Institute for Broadcasting Development, UNDP invited acclaimed screenwriter Haseena Moin to work with participants to prepare a script for a television drama dealing with gender-based violence and victimization of women. Pakistan Television will produce the drama for broadcast.
The project has already led to number of gender-sensitive productions telecast by Pakistan Television. Among them are a daily one-hour special broadcast, Khawateen (Ladies) Time; a long play, Dasht-e-Tanhai Mein (In the deserts of loneliness) telecast on International Women's Day in March; and drama serials entitled Dopatta and Ana.