Afghan women break ground with TV station launch

Employees attend a meeting at the Zan TV studio in Kabul. (Reuters)
Updated 20 May 2017
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Afghan women break ground with TV station launch

KABUL: A new television channel dedicated to women is set to begin broadcasting in Afghanistan, the first of its kind in a country whose media industry, like many areas of society, remains dominated by men.
Zan TV (“Women’s TV”) launches on Sunday with a staff of all female presenters and producers, following a high-profile marketing campaign on billboards in Kabul and on social media.
Female newsreaders appear regularly on many Afghan channels, but an entire station for women is a novelty. Its arrival highlights the fact that behind the daily stories of violence, change is taking place in Afghanistan, even if it is often slow and patchy.
“I am so happy that this TV station has been created for women because there are women in our society who are not aware of their rights,” said 20-year-old Khatira Ahmadi, a producer at the station.
“So this station represents women and we work to raise the voice of women so they can defend their rights,” she said.
Women’s rights and education as well as media freedom are often cited by the government and foreign aid organizations as among the biggest achievements in the country since the Taliban was toppled in 2001.
Still, Afghanistan is one of the most difficult places in the world for women in media, and in a poor and war-ravaged country — with a crowded television landscape of around 40 stations — there is no guarantee of success.
Media entrepreneur Hamid Samar, the founder of Zan TV, said he was banking on potentially large female audiences in big cities like Kabul who are hungry for news and discussion that reflect their own experiences.
“There has been a lot of talk about women’s rights and media rights,” he said. “But we’ve never seen anything special for women and that’s why we’ve done this.”
Zan TV runs on a shoestring using low-cost digital technology and operating out of a basic studio in Kabul, focusing on talk shows along with programs on health and music.
It relies heavily on a team of mainly young women, many of them students. Youth and enthusiasm make up for what it lacks in experience.
Around 16 male technicians work behind the scenes in areas like graphics, camera operation and editing, as well as teaching female colleagues who have little access to media training.
Some of the female staff like Ahmadi have had to cope with disapproving family members or even brush aside threats in order to pursue their media careers.
But for Ahmadi, among the few staff members with prior television experience, giving a new generation of women a chance to work in media is a major benefit of the station.
“I came to share my experience with colleagues here, and I am really happy working along with the other girls,” she said.


WWE stars soften up to Jeddah children to introduce anti-bullying campaign

Updated 25 April 2018
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WWE stars soften up to Jeddah children to introduce anti-bullying campaign

  • Al-Oula is a non-profit organization targeted to break the cycle of poverty
  • WWE stars sat down in front of 30 students from the institution

Jeddah: The children of Al-Oula –- a non-profit organization targeted to break the cycle of poverty –- had the most thrilling school trip as they came to see World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) superstars Mojo Rawley and Mark Henry in King Abdullah stadium on Tuesday.
The stars sat down in front of 30 students from the institution and softened up as they shared stories from their childhood and introduced their anti-bullying campaign “Be a Star.”
The stars shared personal stories and the difficulties they have faced.
Dean Muhtadi, 31, better known by his ring name Mojo Rawley, told the children: “We are different in many ways but sometimes you have to focus on the similarities and positive aspects of others.”
Mark Henry, 46, opened up about his past: “When I was young people would call me names and were mean to me, so I decided to become the strongest person in the world.
“I won three world championships in three different world countries that had nothing to do with each other and I am very proud of myself for not letting the mean comments get to my head.”
Henry was world heavyweight champion, and is also a two-time Olympian and a gold medalist at the Pan American Games.
Later the children had the chance to talk directly with the stars. Rawley is originally Palestinian, so he spoke in Arabic with some of the children.
Henry told one of the students: “If someone is troubling you, don’t give them the satisfaction of letting the comments or actions affect you, and immediately tell your teacher or your parents or any adult, and they will help you through your problems.”
The children then took pictures and were given tickets to the WWE Royal Rumble show on Friday.
“Jeddah is a very family-friendly and a culture-loving city, so I love being here,” Henry told Arab News. “The only difference is the language. Apart from that everyone is very nice and warm.”
On the Royal Rumble, he said: “Get ready for the best entertainment you have ever seen with your own eyes.”
“For someone who comes from an Arab background, this is a historic achievement and it will be remembered for ever,” Rawley said in an interview with Arab News.
“When I first found out that we agreed to a ten-year partnership, it was the coolest thing to find out.
“I am very fortunate to be a part of this long-term partnership which will give the citizens a long time to understand and give us enough time to develop our brand here in Saudi Arabia.
“Last year the show in Riyadh was a small, non-televised show but it was one of the coolest experiences of my life, so I am very excited to perform in this grand-scale show. It’s going to be an amazing show. It will rival Wrestle Mania, which is the biggest event of the year.”
Jana Marwan, a nine-year-old student, said: “Everyone told us that the wrestlers were scary but they weren’t. In fact they were very friendly. They taught us how to look out for ourselves and I had so much fun. I am thankful to them.”