Breaking Away From Tradition

Introduced in 2010, Srinagar’s Government College for Women has produced its first, all-girls batch of mass communication graduates who are ready to take off to achieve new heights, a welcome change in a society where journalism was considered as a heritage of males, Ruwa Shah reports.

For the first time in Kashmir valley, as many as 19 girls graduated in journalism from Srinagar’s Government College for Women. The three year course in Mass Communication and Multimedia Production (MCMP) was started in 2010 by the college which offers admissions to females only.

Breaking the trends and conservative myths of society, this was the first batch of female journalists comprising of 19 young and passionate girls who are interested in different fields of mass communication like print media, electronic media, photo-journalism, documentary making and radio.

Lacking proper infrastructure, the mass communication department at Women’s College in Srinagar has a computer lab comprising of five computers, three SLR cameras and a multimedia projector. The total intake capacity of department is 20 and selections are based upon an entrance test conducted by the college in affiliation with the University of Kashmir.

“We were not taught in much practical ways like journalism should be. Our classes were limited to theory and lectures, and we were deprived of experience that a journalism student should be exposed to,” says Shireen Hamdani, one of the students. Shireen aspires to become a print journalist and has worked as an intern with online magazine, Kashmir Dispatch. One of her write-ups appeared in New York Times along with Riffat Rathor, another student who aspires to become a print journalist. Riffat is working as a trainee reporter with Indian Express and has made a space of her own in media circles. “I want to become a story teller and report the stories of my own people, of my Kashmir,” she says.

These girls want to serve the society by utilizing their talents and dreams along a particular subject of interest. “I feel that people deserve to know the facts and realities on the ground level, and for doing so, documentary or film making is the best option,” Arusha Farooq, who dreams of becoming a documentary maker, says.

However, she feels let down by her teachers at the college for not paying interest towards the subject. “We were not taught how to make a film or even the basics, although it was in our syllabus and we had to submit a documentary on our own,” she rues.

There are a few students who aspire to become newsreaders. The staff at the college comprises of teachers who are experts in electronic media which helped the students. But the lack of scope in electronic media in Kashmir upsets the students. “We do not have studios of news channels in valley. We cannot practice news reading,” laments Atoofa Zaeem, who loves to be on camera and aspires to become a newsreader.

Some students inspired by Radio Jockeys are interning with radio stations like 92.7 Big FM and Radio Kashmir and want to pursue their career in this medium “Being an RJ is my passion. I wanted to do something different and break the old trends and customs of society,” Insha Fareed, a student says.

The faculty at the department comprise of contractual lecturers with interim qualifications. There is no permanent faculty and the department is headed by Masood Malik, who belongs to the faculty of Functional English. “Despite many backdrops of the department, they did well and will prove to be good journalists,” he believes. “I found in them all basic ingredients of a good journalist; passion, inquisitiveness and understanding. The only thing missing was experience which I am sure they will get with exposure,” says Danish Nabi, a teacher at the department said.

There are only two colleges and three universities in Kashmir which offer courses in media studies. Many of them were recently set up. This has encouraged education of women in journalism on a broader scale. “Being a conflict zone, Kashmir creates politically more educated students who can do excellently well in journalism,” Anuradha Bhasin, executive editor of Kashmir Times says.

“In late 80’s when journalism studies began in Kashmir, it was difficult for women to work in this field. But today, the difference could be seen clear. This change is gradual and it is because of this step only when more and more graduates will switch to this field,” she says.

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