Journalism which largely remained to be a field of the male domain, women entered the field of journalism in large numbers, but it is not astonishing at all to consider the status of women historically in a country like India where access and equality are limited and it is not logical if we ask about the lack of Indian women in this field. The idea remains that the best journalists tend to be men with good social networking skills is still exists like an exclusive ‘Old Boys Club’ that systematically prunes the promotion of women to important positions. And there’s the society which discriminates against the woman every time a woman decides to move beyond the boundaries of family and home. Forcing numerous aspiring women to not follow careers after marriage so that she can fulfil her role as a wife, a mother and a daughter is not ended yet. Not enough numbers of women can be seen in newsrooms and on the field reporting. In India, it is nearly impossible to imagine such a scenario in rural areas while a privileged urban woman may gain a significant position. Meanwhile, the phenomenon of female rural reporters are in some villages of Utter Pradesh and their reach is slowly trickling to communities around them.
Status of women journalist in India:
If we look at the factual perspective, women journalists have achieved appreciable developments in the last two decades. Their share of jobs in all media has increased and are not restricted to fashion, cookery, art and culture but are also reporting from the battlefields, stock market and the parliament’s press gallery. By mainstreaming health, environmental, social concerns and women issues, women journalists are in fact gradually changing the media and giving it a broader base. The discrimination between male and female employees is a reality and women journalists still continuing their careers with a hopeful and positive attitude avoiding all the difficulties. Many a time, their goals are choked long before they even have a chance to flourish. Preeti Misra from Hindustan Times in Jharkhand says, “Though women are well represented in the media their voices are largely unheard. They are supposed to report on the predicaments of society at large but when it comes to themselves, they are seldom heard.” Sudha Menon from the Hindu Business line says, “Women journalists are often overworked, underpaid and have very little access to equal employment. In fact, a large number of organisations often deny women promotions on the flimsy excuse that they cannot do night duty. Childcare, flexi-hours, a more sensitive approach to the limitations she faces when she is in the child-rearing phase can do wonders for both the organisation and women employees”. With the same concern Rashme Sehgal from Delhi said, “After spending so many years in journalism, I’ve found that no matter how many awards I win, and how productive I am, my talents will be recognised only to a certain extent. In addition, news organisations prefer hiring younger girls. It’s frustrating because once one has acquired the skills and experience, one is too old or overqualified”.
Struggles of investigative women journalists:
A career of a female investigative journalist is menacing with untold anguish and other external factors which often leads to discouragement to pursuing this work field. Gender inequality in newsrooms, sexual harassment, unequal pay and stereotypes that women are the weaker gender and some of them are facing barriers in many aspects even though more women are engaging their investigative careers rather than struggling to be heard. So what are the experiences of women journalists reporting in dangerous terrain or on contentious issues? Do they face threats other than those outlined in the report? And what does all this imply for our press freedom? “When you are a woman journalist trying to dig for information, they intimidate you. At times they even propose bribes, so that you don’t divulge information about what they are doing. Another reality I would like to mention regarding the security of female journalist is that you can be in danger of being raped or be killed as a way of trying to silence you,” said Namwezi, an African investigative journalist. Even in the 21st century, there still exists a gender divide in the workplace. For women who break into the field, why is it difficult for them to shake the stereotype of doing ‘soft’ journalism?
Social and economic conditions of women journalist of India:
Female journalists are mostly engaged with article writing and covering exclusive news stories on extensive current issues. The news covered by women including social, politics, business and economics and international relations that span a wide spectrum of beats. However, this is also a fact that opportunities are not given to most women in news media. There are noticeable differences in the situation of different female journalists working in various organizations in India. It can be seen that the rising number of women in the urban news media and their increasing visibility in leading TV news channels has created the impression that there is no more barrier enter news media. However, the fact is that there is still a struggle for employment for women and that they face slow and limited progress in news media in India. With limitations to specific beats which male thinks that they can do such as entertainment whether women are not given a chance to demonstrate their journalistic capabilities. There is always a question about salary packages which are offered to women and men journalists and women in comparison with men generally gets a lower package. Jobs insecurities can be added as well. The need for improvement on the current social and economic status of the women reporters in urban or rural areas are required most.
Women journalists who made their voices heard:
Crossing all the difficulties, some of women journalist who deserves worthy mention because they made sure that they indeed are the ‘fourth pillar of democracy. Women journalists who have carved a space in the world of journalism and media are as follows:
(i) Yashica Dutt, is working at Hindustan Times, LiveMint, Scroll.in, The Wire, and HuffPost India as an independent journalist. She published her memoir in 2019, ‘Coming out as a Dalit’ which is entailed with incidences of caste shame, and how growing up in a Dalit family was like where she had to hide her caste identity.
(ii) Kavita Devi, the Editor-in-Chief of Khabar Lahariya. An independent woman, from Bundelkhand’s rural hinterlands, who rose through persistence throughout her life battling various issues such as those of caste, class and resources, Khabar Lahariya materialized through the passion and determination of Kavita and like-minded women. Khabar Lahariya is an Indian newspaper written in Hindi’s various rural dialects, including Bundeli, Bajjika and Avadhi, with over 40 Dalit women from Bundelkhand reporting on various stories.
(iii) Chitrangada Choudhary: Chitrangada Choudhury is an independent journalist and researcher, working on issues of indigenous and rural communities, land and forest rights, and resource justice.
(iv) Greeshma Kuthar: Greeshma Kuthar is the author of an 18-part series on the saffronisation of Coastal Karnataka, which is a detailed account of the contemporary history of Hindu nationalism in coastal Karnataka. She is a lawyer from Tamil Nadu who works at Firstpost presently.
(v) Rana Ayyub: Rana Ayyub is an Indian novelist and journalist. She is the author of Gujarat Files: The Anatomy of a Cover-up, which is an investigative research book, extensively covering Gujarat riots of 2002 with links to Amit Shah and PM Narendra Modi. The book got worldwide attention and Amit Shah was jailed for a brief while too. She is a vocal Muslim woman who speaks for women’s rights, Muslim rights and against Hindutva and the politics of RSS. Rana Ayyub was rewarded the most Resilient Global Journalist Award at the Peace Palace in Hague, in 2018.
The actual reality of the representation of women journalists in India and their status is still a grave concern. Continuing and sincere efforts of women journalists have enabled them to achieve success and opportunities in the media profession. In the mainstream news media, few female journalists have become noticeable and given better opportunities to shine. But a good number of women are still working in lower positions with limited freedom about conducting their work. Merely, the female journalists living in rural parts with social restrictions and patriarchal thinking of the people in their areas also face problems while doing their job an. Their professional work should be praise in a dignified manner.
Visuals by: Kunal Kaustav Duwarah
Article by Puja Mahanta, The North-Eastern Chronicle