Kamala Sarup: Women Needed To Join Nepali Press
Women Needed To Join Nepali Press
By Kamala Sarup
"What is the image of women working in print and electronic media" may be a serious question to ask. The freedom of the press in Nepal does not seem to be utilized effectively.
In Nepal, neither the mainstream nor alternative media has shown much interest in women's issues and whatever has been covered mostly is rather negative and wrongly projected. The media does not seem to have given adequate attention to important issues that concern women's welfare. In general, on women's issues the media has been at best elitist and worst sensational and irresponsible.
According to a survey on women in the media, it is estimated that women represent fewer than 30 percent of the employees in the national newspapers and magazines, films and in radio broadcasting in most of the countries in the world. Furthermore, less than 10 percent are engaged at the managerial level. One of the main reasons for limited involvement of women in the press and in the field of writing may be their isolation from exposure and exchange of ideas with the outside world.
The history of print media in Nepal is no longer than 100 years. The first newspaper of the country, Gorkhapatra, vernacular daily was published from a mono type press over 98 years ago. Radio Nepal was the first electronic media started from Bikram Era 2007, almost 44 years ago. Since then, Nepali media has experienced a slow metamorphosis to come to the current state. Today, more than 600 newspapers and magazines and a seven electronic media outlets are in operation. Rastriya Samachar Samiti is the sole national news agency.
Women's participation in mass media began as early as 42 years ago. Since then, different women personalities have been persevering to raise the female cause in the media almost on a regular basis. But still women's participation in the existing Nepali media as journalists, editors, reporters, writers, script writers are very nominal. This applies to both print and electronic media.
The first women's magazine in Nepal published 46 years ago, stated in its editorial, "We are going to offer the readers of Mahila (meaning women) a women's bulletin". Mahila which was mainly a bulletin about a women's organization was published in 1951 jestha. It was the first magazine in this country to be edited, managed and published entirely by women. The first issues of Mahila were very interesting as it included many articles relating to the disorder and the current social evils, as well as poems, news and editorial comments.
Four months after the release of Mahila in 1951, another monthly women's magazine Prabha was published. This magazine, too, was only published once and disappeared. Then on 16th of Bhadra, 2008, another magazine Pratibha was started under its leadership in women's liberation movement, however, and it was closed after a year of publication. In the meantime, Jana Bikas, another magazine of a different style was started under the editorship of Rama Devi Pant in 1953. But this magazine was also discontinued after 12 issues. In 1958, a new magazine, Swasnimanchhe (women) was started by a woman editor Shashikala Sharma. At the same time that Swasnimanchhe was in public, another magazine under a women editor, Chetana was started on 15 Baisakh 2016. But this magazine also could not continue for more than six issues. Although, there had been many magazines with various publication schedules fortnightly, monthly quarterly. It was only in 1962 that a weekly magazine with a woman editor was established.
After the political change in 1960, some women got an opportunity to organize themselves within the framework of a special directive from the government. This women's magazine became monthly after two years of publication. The publication was regular until 1960 with different editorial boards but it could not contribute much for the development of women in the country.
In this context, in 1972 and in 1973 two women's magazines came into existence they were Gargi edited by Manjla Giri and Nari edited by Shova Duwal. Besides these two magazines, there were other women's magazines and bulletins published secretly by various women's organizations. Most of them usually disappeared after a few issues without making any solid contribution to the society. Therefore, women's journalism was almost back to zero when Asmita was first published in 1988.
After three years, in 1991 and in 1992 other size women's magazines appeared Narimanch, Riwas, Naulo, Abhiyan, Nawa Richa, Richa, and Deep Ganga. It was a good sign that more and more women's magazines and papers were coming to support women to express their problems and experiences but due to financial administrative and management reasons, after a few issues they also disappeared. Nowadays some other general magazines believe that their duty is fulfilled if a small column for women is provided. But this does not bring any change in the status of women in Nepal. Hence, more and more women's magazines and women journalists need to come forward.
Many women deliberately avoid this because they think journalism means hard work and less pay. Hence, it seems that the government at first must direct its efforts to make the print media stand on its feet, since the fourth estate, as it is constitutionally termed, remains one of the pillars of democracy, all possible help must be rendered to the print media for its healthy and sustainable growth. This being the reality, it has always been difficult for the media to flourish. If only the government no matter which political party comes to power, shakes off its prejudices and appreciates healthy criticisms, the chance is bright for the media to flourish.
As there is no adequate representation and participation of women journalists in the print media, more and more women should be encouraged to join the profession especially at the decision making level of the editorial section.
Code of Conduct
There is a code of conduct for journalists that they should not publish anything, which degrade the weaker sections of society. This code of conduct is forgotten very often while writing on women's issues. The media should improve its own restrictions and standards on items that humiliate and discriminate against women.
A Nepali journalist, Ms. Kamala Sarup is an editor of peacejournalism.com. She has also been invited as a speaker at a number of peace and women conferences. She is specialising in in-depth reporting and writing on Peace Resolutions, Anti war, Women, Terrorism, Democracy, Development, Politics and HIV/AIDS. Some of her publications are: Women's Empowerment (Booklet, 1999). Prevention of trafficking in women for prostitution through media, (Book) Efforts to Prevent Trafficking in Women & Girls - A Pre-Study for Media Activism (1998). Ms. Kamala Sarup has been nominated as Universal Peace Ambassador  in the framework of the Universal Peace Ambassadors Circle, Geneva Switzerland.