UNAMA-backed female journalists group in Bamyan discusses progress and challenges

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6 March 2013 – Female journalists in the Afghan province of Bamyan held on Monday their first annual meeting since the formation of their professional association – a group supported by the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) – marking the event with a wide-ranging discussion on the progress made and challenges encountered since its establishment.

The group, known as the Bamyan Women Journalists Association (BWJA) and made up of 20 members, gathered at UNAMA’s Central Highlands Region offices, located in the province’s capital, also known as Bamyan, for the event. Its inaugural meeting took place on 4 March 2012, just days ahead of International Women’s Day.

Observed around the world on 8 March annually, the UN-backed International Women’s Day recognizes women for their achievements without regard to divisions, whether national, ethnic, linguistic, cultural, economic or political. This year’s theme is ‘A promise is a promise: Time for action to end violence against women,’ and it seeks to strengthen the international community’s commitment to put an end to violence against women.

As part of its efforts to promote the empowerment of women, UNAMA helped facilitate BWJA’s formation in March last year, spotlighting how its creation was a signpost for women’s empowerment throughout the province and provided them with a unified voice in a medium traditionally dominated by men.

In their discussions, the BWJA members thanked UNAMA for the journalism training and workshops it provided for them, noting that such efforts contributed to the development of their reporting skills.

The members also outlined challenges they face in their work, most of which centred on security, infrastructure and logistics issues. These included a lack of a suitable venue for members to meet regularly, Internet access, fuel to generate electricity for radio broadcasting services, difficulties in securing transport to neighbouring provinces, and the lack of networks connecting them to Kabul-based media organizations, with the latter negatively impacting their ability to access journalism training provided by such organizations. In addition, the journalists underlined their need to improve their English-language skills and asked for further support from UNAMA in this regard.

Those in attendance at yesterday’s meeting included the acting head of UNAMA’s Central Highlands Region’s office, Elena Drozdik, and provincial coordinator of the United Nations Development Programme’s (UNDP) Gender Equality Project in Bamyan, Shaima Seddiqi. Both UN officials voiced their support for the BWJA’s development, and encouraged its members to highlight women’s empowerment in their coverage and future discussions in the lead-up to International Women’s Day on Friday.

By UNAMA Bamyan