New Afghan TV Station Puts Women Front and Center

Despite the enormous risks female journalists face in Afghanistan just doing their jobs, there are still too few opportunities for them to find work. Now, Afghan women aren’t waiting for opportunities to present themselves, they’re creating their own.

Afghanistan’s first TV station for women and by women launched three months ago in Kabul and has since sustained impressive ratings. Fifty women operate Zan TV (“women TV” in Arabic), all between the ages of 17-28. Half of the women are trained journalists, the other half are learning on the job. The station employs ten men to teach women skills like film editing and camera operation, but the entire on-air team is female.

In a saturated market, women journalists have a hard time finding work and an even harder time covering issues that matter specifically to women.

“Many trained journalists are jobless because most TV stations won’t employ women, so we do. We also want to train young women who might not have access to education because of where they live or their family,” says Nasrine Nawa, Zan’s director of news programming.

The station’s founder, Hamid Samar, came up with the idea while looking through job applications at another station and saw that women were applying for anchor jobs despite cultural taboos. He told Reuters he felt that women just needed more opportunities to show up, work, and prove themselves.

In a country where women were banned from education not long ago, Zan’s very existence is revolutionary, but its choice of programming pushes boundaries even further. Targeting an audience of millennial women, the station covers topics critical to its audience that most competitors would ignore, and does so through an unabashedly feminist lens.

“Some TV stations in Afghanistan prepare reports about the abuse of women,” says Nawa, “but they don’t report everything as they don’t want to be accused of being feminist. Most forms of women’s empowerment are seen as divisive and anti-men, but we want to remove the negative attitude to women’s issues in this country.”

Zan also covers topics like being a Muslim and a feminist (yes, it is absolutely possible), reproductive rights and managing a career. One of the station’s most popular shows features “radical Afghan women.”

In addition to these topics, Zan also runs a daytime show on cooking healthy meals, because Zan knows an interest in politics is not mutually exclusive from an interest in cooking and vice versa.

Khatira Ahmadi, a 20-year-old producer at Zan, said that many women in Afghanistan are not aware of their rights and that Zan can help raise women’s voices to enable them to defend their rights.

“We want women to have an active role in politics and society,” says Nasrine Nawa, Zan’s director of news programming. “We’re empowering them to lead independent lives outside the home.”

Along with that mission comes a pretty significant risk. Some of the women working at Zan have received threats against themselves or their families. Last year was considered “the bloodiest year ever” for Afghan journalists. In 2016 alone, 13 journalists were killed, 10 of them by the Taliban. After Syria, Afghanistan is the second-most dangerous country to be a female reporter. Reporters Without Borders launched a center earlier this year to protect the country’s 300-400 female journalists.

Still, women’s participation in journalism and media is growing and they’re using their position to empower other women, even if they have to risk their own lives. Zarghoona Hassan founded Radio Shaista, a radio station that talked about empowering women and women’s rights. She fled after the Taliban accused her of converting listeners to Christianity and set a date for her execution. She’s had to shut down her station twice to evade them.

In May, Fatana Hassanzada founded Gellara, Afghanistan’s first women’s lifestyle magazine. She wants to portray Afghan women “as human beings” rather than only victims.

Afghanistan’s female journalists are bravely carving out a place for themselves in the country’s male-dominated media landscape and it doesn’t look like they’ll let anything stop them.

Photo Credit: Facebook

68 comments

Paola S
Paola S11 days ago

Thanks for this

SEND
Margie F
Margie FOURIE14 days ago

Good news, I think

SEND
Maria R
Maria R14 days ago

thanks for sharing

SEND
Carl R
Carl R15 days ago

Thanks!!!

SEND
Danuta W
Danuta W17 days ago

Thanks for sharing.

SEND
iloshechka A
iloshechka A18 days ago

thanks

SEND
Nicole H
Nicole H21 days ago

TO CIARON D : Negativism will certainly not help over 50 % of the world's population, viz. women. If you just think that some Taliban morons will try to shut them up by sending them some bombs or gunned morons, then nobody will ever make an effort to change this world. Is it really that you want ??? I don't believe so. Of course they will get plenty of negative attention, and nasty mails / letters.... But at least these women have the f..cking COURAGE TO DO SOMETHING, not only talk about it, and continue nursing their kids and cooking his Majesty's meals, just as the U.S.A. POTUS would love it..." I will never change diapers" ... Wonder if he is even capable / smart enough to do something so stupid as changing diapers.... If we all keep afraid of what the Taliban and other braindead creatures COULD do, when women fight for their RIGHTS, the world will NEVER CHANGE. And we all will keep living in the Middle (dark) Ages.. How many women are their in the U.S.A. Congress ?? Also afraid of the Taliban ?????????

SEND
Nicole H
Nicole H21 days ago

These women have my greatest respect and admiration. And do you mind they are wearing a scarf ?? well : I AM NOT !! Being a Muslim has nothing to do with your job employment, and if these women prefer to wear a nice scarf, let them do so !! Is this the beginning of a new era in the Muslim world. I certainly hope so. Muslim women have been "attached" to their only job of being a mother and doing the housekeeping. Nothing more. And we do not have less intelligence as men. I would say on the contrary. We are more engaged with social matters like education, how to bring up our children at home, and learn them how to fight for equal rights. We are far more important for the future of our respective countries than men !! Once they wear the name "politicians" they become machos, think they are all geniuses, and want to command us from 00.00 h. till 24.00 h. I really hope these women have started a REVOLUTION and many more will follow. Also in politics, on local basis, or nationally, even internationally. WELL DONE AND DON'T BE AFRAID OF YOUR FELLOW MEN. They don't make the world go around, WE WOMEN DO THAT, AND WE DO THAT VERY WELL !!!!! As Naomi said : you can not fly with only 1 wing... Nice way of putting it !! Thanks for the info as well. Had no idea...

SEND
Naomi D
Naomi Dreyer23 days ago

WOW! Wonderful. And among the teachings of Bahá’u’lláh (Founder of the Baha'i Faith) is the equality of women and men. The world of humanity has two wings—one is women and the other men. Not until both wings are equally developed can the bird fly. Should one wing remain weak, flight is impossible. Not until the world of women becomes equal to the world of men in the acquisition of virtues and perfections, can success and prosperity be attained as they ought to be.

SEND
Jaime J
Jaime J24 days ago

Thank you!!

SEND