Gulf media right to showcase women journalists’ perspective


Gulf media right to showcase women journalists’ perspective

Kuwait, which is currently holding the rotating presidency of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), hosted the second Gulf Female Journalists’ Forum this week. This brought together a group of women journalists from various Gulf countries seeking to increase their media presence in the Arab world. The event, which aims to empower women to run media institutions and address obstacles that are specific to Gulf journalists, was organized by the Kuwait Journalists’ Association and Gulf Press Union.
In recent years, Gulf women have been able to consolidate their position in the region’s media despite the nature of the patriarchy. There is an increasing recognition and opportunities for female Gulf journalists to become known for their contributions. A total of 25 Gulf journalists have made the list of 100 Outstanding Arab Women since 2011.
In the past, it was more difficult for women to be apparent in the media, particularly in the 1960s, when Kuwaiti women used male pen names while expressing their views. However, today women hold many top positions in Gulf newspapers.
Women in the media, as women in most public sectors previously dominated by men, often face challenges all over the world. However, it is additionally difficult for women in this region, where societal customs and traditions are strong and sometimes become an obstacle for women to enjoy the same conditions as their Western counterparts.

There is an increasing recognition and opportunities for female Gulf journalists to become known for their contributions. A total of 25 Gulf journalists have made the list of 100 Outstanding Arab Women since 2011.

Sinem Cengiz

Journalists and other women who are required to interact with the public face extra hurdles in a traditional society. The first handicap for women journalists in the region is to be accepted as working individuals regardless of the job they do. The only way to overcome this handicap is to change the perceptions of the society they live in. On the sidelines of the forum, I had the chance to ask one of the journalists her view of the current situation for women in Gulf media. Kuwaiti journalist Heba Taweel said it is necessary to educate society to accept the culture of opinion and respect others’ views. Education plays a vital role here, as it is the strongest weapon in the hands of women.
A second handicap is women journalists’ acceptance in the male-dominated media sector and attempts to be treated equally. It is saddening that we still mention “acceptance” or “equal conditions,” even though these are the very basic rights of each individual regardless of their gender.
Another point underlined by the participants in the forum was the transparency and reliability of the news. Journalists from the UAE stressed that the press has negative effects on societies if they produce fake or biased news coverage. Saudi journalists reported that empowering women to work in official bodies is important. In recent years, the Kingdom has taken steps to include women in the fields of politics, business and media. This is a giant leap and should be supported.
No doubt that the forum was significant in raising public awareness of women’s role in the media and encouraging the implementation of creative programs in various media outlets. Such initiatives should be strongly supported but, from the other side, we wish to see that the talks in those forums are practiced in real life. Kuwaiti journalists stressed the need for joint meetings between Gulf women journalists in order to develop specific strategies to serve their media. They proposed the existence of a website for women to discuss important issues, develop skills and use online tools to empower women to work in the media.
Kuwaiti Prime Minister Sheikh Jaber Al-Mubarak Al-Hamad Al-Sabah, who received the journalists, praised the initiative as being useful in bringing together viewpoints, strengthening ties and avoiding anything that would divide GCC countries. Needless to say, media cooperation is a vital part of international relations and is perhaps more important in the Arab world than most other bilateral connections. Thus, collective work by women in the media may play a very significant role in strengthening ties between GCC countries.
Believing in the wisdom of women and including their views and perspectives in the media helps empower women in the Arab world. Undoubtedly, the most efficient way to help the development of the Arab world lies in opening up more spaces for women, respecting them, breaking discriminatory stereotypes and not treating them as weak. There is already growing evidence that women’s participation in social, political and cultural processes improves stability and prosperity. Our region does not need anything more significant than this.

  • Sinem Cengiz is a Turkish political analyst who specializes in Turkey’s relations with the Middle East. Twitter: @SinemCngz
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