Monday, 7 October 2013

Women's rights top agenda at journalists' forum

Inadequate attention and very little news space is being given to the issue of women's rights in the region, a training session with 30 journalists from the Asia-Pacific region concluded recently.

The three-day training session was recently held in Bangkok by the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN Women) and the UN Population Fund (UNFPA).

The participants were divided as to whether setting up a gender-specific or women's desk would be a boon or bane to gender equality.

Some said it would be good as more women's issues would be reported, while others said it would only ghettoise the issue, saying that the way forward would be to mainstream gender-specific news.

Divisive ideas

The group was also divided on whether reports should merely present the truth or become advocates for gender equality.

Meanwhile, even bigger challenges confront women journalists from countries like Afghanistan. Shakeela Ebrahimkhil, a television reporter at Afghanistan's Tolo channel, said being a female journalist in itself was controversial because Afghan men expected women to merely stay at home and raise children.

Ebrahimkhil, whose husband was killed by the Taleban a decade ago, is also afraid of what will happen once US troops pull out of her country. Yet, despite the presence of US troops, it was still dangerous for women to travel to some parts of the country.

Nevertheless, the number of female journalists is on the rise in Afghanistan.

Reproduction issues

The group also debated the issue of women's reproduction rights, with TV journalist Liu Yi from China's state-controlled CCTV saying that her country's one-child policy had saved the world from becoming overpopulated.

However, others argued that it was a woman's right to be able to decide how many children she would want to have.

In the Philippines, divorce and abortion still remain illegal due to Catholicism, while the preference for sons in China and India means that many would-be mothers are forced to abort if the foetus is a girl.

In addition to this, some Indian women continue getting impregnated in the hope of bearing a |boy.

According to UNFPA, 140 million women in the Asia-Pacific region, or 60 per cent of the global female population, is in desperate need of modern contraception methods.

Under a UN framework, 176 member states have agreed that population policies must be aimed at empowering individuals, especially women, to make "decisions about the size of their families, providing them with the information and resources to make such decisions, and enabling them to exercise their reproductive rights".

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