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Women face many media challenges

Forum highlights why so many women quit journalism

Women face many media challenges
The journalists' forum reporter, Colombo
Sri Lanka

January 24, 2012

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Male dominance, family restrictions, an unfavorable workplace environment, lack of training facilities, lack of security and inflexible working hours are among the main reasons why many women quit journalism. “Very few women journalists make it to the top; it’s still mostly men,” said Hanna Ibrahim, editor of English language newspaper Ceylon Today. “We only have three newspaper editors in the whole country,” Ibrahim said. Most female journalists end their careers after they get married,” she said. Ibrahim was addressing a journalist’s forum organized by the Sri Lanka Press Institute in Colombo on January 20. However, another panelist, news director of the Derana television channel Shehan Baranaka, pointed out that 75 percent of journalism and mass communication students are female. “The media is very powerful and there is intense competition in the industry to be the best. Those who can rise to the challenge will progress. But it is especially difficult for senior female journalists because of family commitments and attitudes towards them,” she said. According to one young female journalist, Vasana Devinuwara, the industry is male-dominated and women looking for a career in the media are discouraged and looked down upon. This needs to change, starting from the ground and then up. “Women journalists are not assigned any important news like crime and serious political issues. Many families have the perception that women are not respected in media. They are also paid less than their male colleagues,” she said. “This needs to change,” she added. Two other women working at a Sinhala weekly newspaper said their families were not very keen on them working as journalists. Being unmarried and young, along with the long hours and frequent travel, means that they are not always seen in a good light in Sri Lankan society, therefore they do not see themselves being able to continue working as journalists for very long, they said. But women do have their allies from within the industry. Father Shantha Sagara Hettiarachchi, editor of the Catholic weekly Gnanartha Pradeepaya (Light of Wisdom), believes there should be a gender balance in the media. He said women do seem to be better at some things than their male colleagues, which should be recognized. “Female journalists are better at investigative reporting than men,” the priest said. “We should be encouraging them.”   Related reports Dialogue addresses gender inequalities Media ‘has a duty to build democracy’ Sri Lankan Catholic journalists join protest    
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