It’s August in Pakistan and much of the country is underwater. Catastrophic flooding has killed hundreds, left millions homeless and destroyed infrastructure. The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) province in Pakistan’s northwest is one of the areas worst affected.
Amid the destruction in KP is a group of women journalists together with a group of women bloggers who are telling stories that no-one else is telling. It’s the culmination of a three-year Thomson Media programme to enhance the voices of women in public discourse in what remains a male-dominated society.
The project called Valley Voices, has been so successful in terms of audience engagement in particular, that it was extended in 2022. Working alongside Tribal News Network (TNN), a radio and online news platform, we trained a team of women journalists on advanced mobile journalism skills including filming, editing, storytelling and safety.
The result has been stories from the field during and after the flood including the impact primarily on women and children, the lack of clean drinking water and the urgent need for facilities for pregnant women.
“Now we have large numbers of women [journalists] and it’s made it easier for us to interview other women and get information," says Said Nazir, executive director, TNN.
“I think we are becoming role models for the rest of the media here in Pakistan and the audience is also getting unique content”.
Eight women bloggers also provided content for TNN about the flooding which is remarkable considering some are unable to leave home to work because of the strict rules preventing them from working alongside male journalists.
This unique concept saw the women being mentored and trained to provide 48 blogs over six months on topics ranging from the lack of say for a woman in marriage, domestic violence and dealing with periods.
“Normally you don’t see articles like this in society”.
For the bloggers themselves, it has given them a chance to participate in public discourse, and judging from their response, it’s been a liberating experience.
One blogger, Hudaibia Iftikhar, wrote an article on why Pakistan needs more women leaders in which she argued: “If [women] are responsible caretakers of their families, then why not for their nation?” Hudaibia says her involvement in the programme has enabled her to 'defend myself better’.
Another, economics graduate Nazia Salarzai, says the project has given her ‘a platform’. “I am representing a population of 1.2 million in the Bajaur tribal district bordering Afghanistan where there is no single woman blogger and journalist except me,” she says.
Writing in a blog about the flooding she makes an impassioned plea for urgent work to stop the spread of disease including ‘the provision of lady doctors, their access to women and their safety.’
Other bloggers told us the training had increased their confidence with the result they have been offered work from national and international organisations.
Said Nazir called the training for bloggers ‘a fascinating idea’. “We are pushing the boundaries and bringing new realities to the media”, he says.
“I am representing a population of 1.2 million in the Bajaur tribal district bordering Afghanistan where there is no single woman blogger and journalist except me”.
Since 2020, Thomson Media has been working with the Tribal News Network (TNN) on ways to give women a voice in northwest of Pakistan, the scheme for women journalist and bloggers is funded by the German Federal Foreign Office through ifa (Institute for Foreign Cultural Relations) as part of the zivik funding programme.