In the war-ravaged country, a bunch of lion-hearted young women is shattering the societal norms, finding a voice of their own and standing up for the rights they have been denied.
The issue of women’s rights has become a hotly debated topic in the male-dominated Afghanistan where strict tribal norms, values with great gender bias, religious extremism and feeble law and order situation have pushed women to live in desolate and lamentable conditions.
While Taliban was toppled in 2001, Afghanistan still remains one of the most difficult countries in the world for women.
A channel by women, for women
Zan TV ( Zan meaning “Women”) was launched in May 2017, making it the first TV station in Afghanistan to be made for and entirely run by women. This is a draconian initiative for a country where television has always been male dominated and where just 16-years-ago, access to education for women were banned, let alone profession like journalism.
“The only way we can revive Afghanistan from whatever is left of the country after the traumatic Taliban rule is by uplifting the status of women in the society. That’s how we find peace in the patriarchal country”, says Hamid Samar, founder of Zan TV.
Fifty professionally qualified women aged between 17 to 28 receive training on the job at Zan TV. Many trained and qualified female journalists have been jobless in the past as most news channels won’t employ women. The crew also consists of 10-15 men who take care of the technical aspects of news reporting and production. The men also provide training to women colleagues in operating cameras and editing films.
Changing the society
“TV is the only medium we can actually reach to more people and the solve the real issues that matter to the people of this country”, says Samar.
Zan TV has received overwhelming support from people all the around the world, especially women who have applauded such move. “We are changing the country”, says Samar with deep satisfaction and pride.
In Afghanistan, every day is a struggle for women. Zan TV aspired to be a space for women in the media industry that easily overlooks issues pertaining to women, perspectives and interests. The channel, with its female broadcasters and producers, reports news that interests and empowers women. It covers a wide a range of topics from religion to entertainments and plans to widen its reach further in the coming time.
Living in a male-dominated society is not easy. Little attention is given to women and the rights are easily overlooked or talked about at the minimum. The news channel has been created so that women can be up front and fight for their rights and raise their voices on issues that matter to them.
While all producers and presenters at Zan TV are women, the channel itself was a brainchild of a man. “Everybody speculated why a man is launching a TV channel run by and for women. I asked why can’t I and what’s the harm? Gender equality is essential for every society to flourish. There are men who support women that there are also those who are not delighted with the idea. I believe that a society must function with equal participation of the workforce.”
Samar laments that there are people who do not say good things about the channel and the women working here.
“Supporting women is a challenge here. It was not easy to do what we did”, he says criticising the perception of the society.
The journey to liberation is not easy
Most Afghani women in media have strained relations with society and have to deal with disapproval of family for doing the work they have chosen. This, however, has not deterred the women of ZanTV or curbed their enthusiasm. While the broadcast began just a few months back, their actions are already ground-breaking.
Female newsreaders, politicians and singers are a regular face on Afghan television, Zan TV boasts the novelty of being entirely run by women and for women. The operations are on a shoestring budget, but it does not put a dent on the zeal of these women. Zan TV uses a low-cost digital technology basic studio in the heart of Afghanistan, the Kabul city.
The young women running the channel are mostly students, training on the job.
In a conservative society like Afghanistan, people are mostly limited to talking about women rights and very few practical measures have been taken to make the society just and equal.
Zan TV hopes to be the platform the women of Afghanistan need to make their voices heard.