The last few years have been some of the deadliest for journalists in Afghanistan since the fall of the Taliban regime in 2001. They are subject to constant violence and threats by the Taliban, the Islamic State, warlords and corrupt political officials.
According to the campaign group Reporters Without Borders, “women journalists are a favourite target, and are especially vulnerable in those regions where fundamentalist propaganda is heeded”.
This is in addition to the already high social and cultural barriers to women’s participation in journalism, and the continued harassment and discrimination they face in the workplace that so hinders their careers.
Since 2018, together with our national partner the Afghan Women’s Educational Center (AWEC), we have been supporting 24 recent graduate and early career female journalists as part of our ‘She Writes’ project.
The project, which is based in the four main regional media hubs in the country: Balkh, Herat, Kabul and Nangrahar, provides the women with a comprehensive training, mentorship and work placement scheme. Training covered topics such as responsible and objective reporting, conflict- and gender-sensitive and ‘do no harm’ principles, security and safety, and CV writing and presentations.
“I am a journalism graduate, but the things I learned with She Writes were new to me,” explained Samira (not her real name), who was in her fourth year of university when joining the scheme. “I learned new methods of reporting, presentation, journalism and many practical approaches related to journalism.”
The participants were also connected with established and renowned – mostly female – journalists as part of a six-month online mentorship scheme. These mentors were a crucial source of practical insights, learning and advice for the women, and could help them build contacts within the media sector.
Without industry experience and connections, many journalism graduates struggle to find work in the sector. So, to ensure that the women could utilise the skills and knowledge they had learned, we helped them find work placements, where they could gain hands-on experience of journalism to help launch their careers.
Samira, for instance, was able to transition from her three-month internship to a full-time daily on-air position at a local television station in her home province.
We hope that, by equipping and getting young women into journalism in Afghanistan, this will help to slowly change attitudes and ultimately behaviours within the media sector towards female journalists. In turn, it can demonstrate to the families and relatives of aspiring female journalists that the media is a safe industry for women to work in.
This is also vital in ensuring that the country’s media better represents women in its coverage, accurately and effectively reporting on their lives and holding authorities accountable for the discriminatory treatment women continue to face in society.
This is certainly a goal for Samira, who wants to serve as a role model for women in her province and to share their voices far and wide.
This project began in October 2018 and runs until October 2020.