Central Asian Journalism Has a Female Face: IWPR Held Round Table on Women and Gender Issues in Media

How to write about women and gender issues and why it is important to talk about discrimination of female media workers in Central Asia is the key topic of the round table held online on September 15.

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The event was organised by the IWPR’s representative office and was held as part of the marathon “A kilo of content” held by CABAR.asia media school on the media. It is designed to create quality and unbiased content that will help to counter misleading information. The marathon will be held in four rounds and the topic of the first one is concordant with the round table topic, “The image of women in the media”.

“We’d like to talk about the importance of women’s representation in the media. Also, we’d like to discuss gender discrimination, when discrimination occurs both in media content and in media sphere. We will discuss the importance of the language of coverage of women based on the examples of media outlets in Central Asia and why it is important to cover gender issues. And how social media can help female journalists to press for equal wages and opportunities,” said Begaiym Adzhikeeva, a coordinator of IWPR project in Central Asia, when opening the discussion.

According to the editor of kloop.kg, sheisnomad.com, Aidai Irgebaeva (Kyrgyzstan), the female audience often takes the use of feminitives in the media positively. According to her estimates, nearly 80 per cent of women do not object to the use of female gender denoting professions. Nevertheless, the dispute about the acceptance of feminitives is still in progress.

“For me, feminitives were a form of protest. For example, the word “directress” for me is common, it’s the word I know from my childhood. But once I saw that people who hated feminitives demanded that we should not use them – and among the words they did not want to use was the word “directress” that I used to know from my childhood. It made me mad. […] Then I started to use feminitives because of the feeling of protest and I encountered rejection, misogyny and depreciation of female’s work,” Irgebaeva said.

She noted that the use of feminitives is a voluntary matter, but as long as the language is living, it is developing and changing.

“If we compare Russian with other Slavonic languages, we’ll see that the Ukrainian, Belorussian and other similar languages have feminitives and they are a common phenomenon,” she said.

However, not only feminitives, but sexism in advertisements and texts raise disputes in the media and social networks in Central Asia. According to the co-founder and chief editor of Hook.report, Darin Solod (Uzbekistan), the image of a woman in the media of Uzbekistan is very canonical, just a mother and a wife, despite the attempts to change something.

“This position is transmitted from all sides – on TV, in entertainment content, by officials, on whose interviews some media outlets are based. Entertainment programmes and TV series actively promote family values indicating the place of a woman. Media outlets promote this common position from time to time either using hate speech or bullying,” Solod said.

According to her, the same trend can be seen in SMM and digital, while advertising in Uzbekistan either uses the sex topic, or refers to the image of the domestic goddess. The similar situation is in other countries of the region. However, the majority of media workers in Central Asia are women.

As the founder and chief editor of Your.tj, Zebo Tadzhibaeva (Tajikistan) said in her speech, the journalism of Tajikistan has a female face. And the biggest investigations and reports in the country belong to women.

“Media projects that opened in the last three years belong to women. All chief editors in large media outlets are women. In 2016, a Coalition of female journalists of Tajikistan was established in the country and now it has nearly 30 members. Unfortunately, no one counts the number of journalists in the country and the number of women among them. However, I feel that there are many women there,” Tadzhibaeva said.

According to her, the year of 2018 was a critical year. It’s then when female journalists started to tell their abuse and harassment stories openly, and media were actively covering these topics. In the same year, a female journalist of Radio Ozodi, Afsona Akobirsho, filed a suit regarding harassment and insult on the street and won it.

According to Tadzhibaeva, it became the starting point of great changes – Tajik female journalists started to implement social initiatives, make documentaries about violence and discrimination against women.

Aisana Ashim, a female journalist and founder of The Village Kazakhstan, Masa.media, in her final speech told about how promote oneself and one’s projects and how social media can help female journalists and content creators to promote and earn.

“I used to do only my job in the past and thought: why should I tell something in social media once there is my article and anyone who wants to read it can do it. However, we should tell about ourselves, show ourselves and do it on various channels. People love people, people trust people, people buy things from people. Therefore, it’s very important in our modern world to show ourselves on social media, tell about our work and values, successes and failures,” Ashim said.

According to her, active personal accounts in social media increase the odds of noticing and evaluating of you by employers and partners. This will help you find new interesting projects and diversity the sources of income. Moreover, it is easier to counter defamation and information attacks once you have social capital.

Among advices on how to build your personal brand in social media she noted that it is essential to understand who your audience is, what your purposes are and determine your unique features. Besides, you should regularly post content, develop your own style and format of posts, and also promote your account.

Summarising the discussion, participants noted that existing problems and gender inequality topics should be covered more as there are few women’s voices in the media. Experts advise to find like-minded persons and make joint projects, as well as to address civil activists who work in these areas and transmit their messages.

Female journalists tell about their problems themselves. Female journalists raise many initiatives

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