Seminar on Building Paths to Equality in Journalism

Seminar on Building Paths to Equality in Journalism: Trivandrum, Kerala, 9 October, 2005

A seminar on the EU project “Building Paths to Equality in Journalism” in partnership with the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) and Bangalore Newspaper Employees Union (BNEU) was held in Trivandrum, Kerala on 9 October, 2005. About 12 women journalists and members of the Central Working Committee of the All India Newspaper Employees Federation (AINEF) participated in the seminar. Pamela Moriniere, Gender Project Officer of the IFJ, was also present on the occasion.

The seminar was inaugurated by Ms. Sreemathy, CPI (M) member of the state legislative assembly. In her inaugural address, Ms. Sreemathy lauded the IFJ on the initiative, and pointed out that in addition to police and administrative services, more and more women were taking up journalism as a career. In the case of visual media, their number was equal to if not more than that of men. Ms Sreemathy remarked that it was a matter of regret that the attitude of employers was not helpful for women employees. She said that Kerala had seen some social progress, but a lot more needed to be done.

Com. Madan Phadnis, President of the AINEF, said the profession of journalism had undergone a sea-change in the past 25 years. It was known to be a noble profession and a job requiring sacrifice, especially at a time when the financial condition of the industry was precarious. This is no longer the case today, when it has turned into a glamorous profession. There were very few journalism institutes prior to the 1980s, but these have mushroomed in the recent past, and several universities have now introduced journalism courses. Com Phadnis further remarked that although India had adequate laws to ensure gender equality, discrimination persisted. For real change, the socio-economic situation, culture and economic conditions need to be transformed, he said.

Pamela Moriniere described the objectives of the project and talked about the survey aimed at finding out the state of working conditions of women journalists, including discrimination and sexual harassment at work places.

She said the project involved bringing together the results of the questionnaire, seminars covering different subjects and sending missions of Indian women journalists to Europe for exchange of ideas with their European counterparts.

Gauridasan Nair, President of the Kerala Union of Working Journalists (KUWJ), said that their union would work in close cooperation with the AINEF on all issues. He said several studies had shown that girls today outnumber boys joining journalism schools. But it was also a fact that only soft assignments went to women journalists and hard beats were still the domain of men. He expressed his dissatisfaction that there was not a single woman office-bearer in the KUWJ.

Com. Narasimhan, president of the Bangalore Union of Journalists and vice-president of the AINEF commented that as far as equality in wages was concerned, Wage Boards which were the wage fixing machinery for newspaper workers in the country, did not discriminate between men and women employees. It was however the responsibility of the unions to protest against inequity at workplaces.

Parvathi, a print journalist and member of the KUWJ, doing some plainspeak, said women faced complex problems, including discrimination from their own colleagues. She also highlighted the fact that women journalists were discouraged from taking active part in union affairs. Men journalists had their clubs which women journalists lacked. She also commented that the glass ceiling in Kerala was thicker than in any other state. The positive aspect, she added, was that there was now an awakening and women were organizing.

Com. Santosh Kumar, Vice-President of the AINEF, remarking that it was very rare to come across women leaders in trade unions, added that present trends indicated that women would be taking a leading role in trade union work in the near future.