On Women’s Day 2020, journalist Pallavi Sareen details the unfair ratio of fair gender in Jammu’s media
This women’s day, 29-year-old Shilpa Thakur is planning to inspire young girls from colleges across Jammu city to take-up journalism after graduating from their colleges. Shilpa is a photojournalist, first among the few known female journalists of Jammu, who has taken up visual media, preferring to be on the ground then write stories from the office.
She has captured terror attacks, riots, Lok Sabha and assembly elections with her lens. Her clicks give an indication of the depth of her thoughts. “It empowers you, makes you aware of the world around you and gives you an insight into the society in which we are living,” says Shilpa. When she stepped into the field, she knew no other female ever dared in Jammu region to step into this field.
Medical Profession is the most preferred profession for girls in Jammu region after teaching, civil services and MBA. Shilpa knew it was not easy. It is Men’s World is what everyone around her would tell her. But she had made up her mind not to let this stop her from chasing her dream.
“I knew I was going to be surrounded by men. There would be good ones and yes, I would have to deal with those who are more worried about ‘looks and secure future of young female journalists’. I met a few but I knew well how to deal with them,” says a confident Shilpa. “I had made up my mind. Come what may, I will not step back. I would click and even if it is required, push a few males left and right for getting the best shot,” continued Shilpa.
Shilpa is working for World News Network, London besides being a staffer with reputed local Jammu daily State Times. “I do meet a number of female reporters but have not met a female photojournalist for the last eight years of my career in photojournalism. This is bad but what can you do when you know the world you are stepping-in has its own positives and negatives,” Shilpa said.
Shilpa is right. A look at the list of accredited media persons explains everything. Females are missing for the reasons best known to the Jammu and Kashmir’s department of information. Of 130 accredited journalists, there are just three females – Shuchismita, Prakriti and Rekha Jamwal. None of the three have even remote connection with photojournalism. While Shuchismita and Prakriti are well-established journalists from print media; Rekha Jamwal worked with the regional news channel, JK News and Gulistan News.
Several females have stepped-in both in print and electronic media but not even one has ever shown any interest either in photojournalism or camera work for electronic media. Shilpa says “Ask them and they would tell you “This is not the Job we are supposed to do. We are well-qualified. Why should we do camera work? This explains why female Journalists do not want to become photojournalists.”
Shilpa explains why females don’t take-up photojournalism in Jammu. “For female journalists in Jammu region, photojournalism and camera work is done by those who are neither well-qualified nor have the professional degrees when this is not the reality. Photojournalism is extremely difficult. You can write and edit it as many times as you want but a bad click can cost you your job.”
Shilpa Thakur narrates stories of how she had to change her way of talking, ignore some of the stuff men had to say about the women in the field while sitting in Jammu Press Club just to feel accepted. Whether it was pursuing a story on the borders in Jammu or getting the perfect shot during protests, while avoiding stone-pelting, she believed that it was sometimes easier than attending a press conference where the male cameramen took all the space and she had to squeeze in with much difficulty.
“The career of female journalists is short-lived in the Jammu region. They either move to a different profession or move out of Jammu if they wish to do journalism in the long-term,” said Anuradha BhasinJamwal, Executive Editor of The Kashmir Times. The statement does not stand true for Shuchismita who has been working with Kashmir times for more than 20 years and continues to handle the newspaper singlehandedly.
However, she is an exception rather than the rule. Deepika Singh Rajawat, known majorly for advocating for justice in the Rasana Rape Case was also a journalist before shifting to law. She recalled tales of harassment during her internship in a newspaper.
“I never faced any harassment but the pressure to prove your worth is more. When I began doing journalism in Jammu, it was unprecedented. No one harassed me but there was a perception that females only entered the profession because of glamour. You have to work odd hours and that’s also one of the reasons why females in Jammu don’t pursue this profession,” said Prakriti, correspondent of Kyodo News.
“I would love to encourage more girls towards photojournalism. Journalism is an empowering profession and I feel women should aspire for more than just a desk job. They have a right to see the world and live their lives and this is one such field which would allow you to do that,” said Shilpa.
Prakriti also said, “In the end, it is the work that matters. As long as you have faith in your abilities and are serious about the work you are doing, you need not care whether you are a male or a female, journalism is for you
Since unaccredited journalists must also be taken into account, research conducted on female journalists in Jammu titled Representation of Voices of Women in Media: A Jammu Centric Study shows that overall only twenty women journalists are working in different media outlets in Jammu.
Female reporters are discriminated in terms of assignments. Hard news is considered male-domain while women were offered only soft beats. There is extreme male dominance in executive positions and on top positions, we have fewer females like only one senior special correspondent, one associate editor, and one chief-editor. The research also showed that the majority of the women who are working in this profession were above 35 years of age and there were hardly four female journalists between the age of 22-30 years.
In print media, there is only one female photojournalist, four correspondents “The overall culture is very conservative in the Jammu region and the stereotype that women should only pursue professions that are traditional exists here. It is a male-dominated bastion and women, even if they come in the field are marginalised and isolated,” said Anuradha Bhasin Jamwal. Many of these journalists who have been in the profession for a long time take this inequality positively and feel motivated to be recognised by their work.