#WomenInFront: Women in the unions: "commitment is key" says Ratna Ariyanti of AJI, Indonesia

Ratna Ariyanti is a journalist, a board member of the Alliance of Independent Journalists (AJI), Indonesia and IFJ South East Asia Coordinator. She describes the challenges facing women journalists and provides some useful tips to change the face of media and unions.

Ratna Ariyanti

How would you describe the situation of women in media in Indonesia? What are the challenges they face reaching top level positions?

Female journalists in Indonesia are less numerous than men. And the media industry  is still male dominated. As a result, only a small percentage of female journalists can reach top level positions or become decision makers in the newsroom.

Women face a double burden: working as journalists and taking care of the family members or children. It is very challenging for female workers as only a few media houses can support them with facilities such as breastfeeding rooms, day care, or paid menstrual leave -which is mandatory in labour law.

Another challenge for female journalists is sexual harassment at work, not only from colleagues or supervisors but also in the field, including from sources. Newsrooms fail to guarantee the safety of female journalists at work.

What are the consequences of the lack of women in managing positions in media?

Newsrooms still maintain the gender bias in recruiting or assigning female journalists. The latest research published by Tempo Institute in Jakarta shows that only 11% of sources cited in the media (print and online) were females. Newsrooms are only focusing on the speed of producing stories. Therefore they choose sources that are “easy” to contact and most of them are male.

How can we solve this situation? Considering your personal experience, what step would you suggest to take to help achieve gender equality in media? 

Newsrooms should provide facilities for women including breastfeeding rooms and daycares. The newsrooms should give the same treatment for male and female journalists, including the right to attend trainings, get promoted, and equal wages or allowances.

What could be the role of male journalists and media leaders in this process? 

Gender equality can only be achieved if men work side by side with female journalists. As media leaders, they should open jobs to young female journalists and implement meritocracy within the newsrooms. Mentoring for female journalists can also be an option. Male journalists must also fight against masculinity culture in newsrooms.

You are one of the 8 women out of 41 members in the AJI board. – Why are they so few women in these positions?

Because the number of female members is also low. AJI Indonesia has 1,846 members and only 343 are women members.

The busy schedule of journalists, in general, has become the obstacle for journalists to be more active in the unions. 

Any tip to share on how to get involved in the union and its leading roles? 

I have had several roles in AJI including in the women’s division where I was in charge of developing programmes to increase female journalists’ skills. We invited speakers and experts who were female journalists, writers or photographers. The aim was to set up a network so that young female journalists could engage more with their senior fellows.

Now I am a member of the workers’ unions division. The role of the team is to strengthen the unions of media workers in the country.

It is quite challenging to divide your time between work and activism. The board members (both in the Jakarta chapter and in the headquarters) have weekly regular meetings on top of journalism work. If the journalism workload is high, many members of the committee skip the meetings. However, we are still in charge through a WhatsApp group so the discussion can continue even though we do not meet face to face. Technology is very helpful to connect us. We also hold an online meeting to replace the face-to-face weekly meeting at least every few weeks.

Commitment is key.

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