KARACHI: For the past two decades Uks, a research, resource and publication centre on women and media, has been working towards a neutral, balanced and unbiased approach towards women and issues facing them within and through the media.

On Saturday evening, the research centre based in Islamabad celebrated 20 years of hard work with a gathering of friends, supporters, activists and journalists.

In her opening remarks, the director of Uks, who started the centre in 1997, said: “The idea behind Uks was to find a way to change or improve the way women were represented in the media — the crime stories, the headlines, the captions... I would sit and read several newspapers every day and cut out news stories related to women and paste them in a book and take them to the editors and show them the kind of language they were using when talking about women.”

Talking about an incident that stood out for her, she said that in 1999 she went to journalist and TV anchor Hamid Mir, who was the editor at a local newspaper at the time. “I took my press clippings to him and said please look at the language being used to describe women in your paper... words such as titliyan, you need to change this. He denied it was [in] his paper. Then I met him again a few months later and he told me after I left he checked, and it was [in] his paper and he eventually fired the editor of the news desk for letting these things slip through,” she said.

At Uks, she explained their focus was to create sensitisation and awareness. One of Uks’ achievements includes a gender sensitive code of ethics for the media and training. “There were so many news pieces which blamed the woman — in a rape case, in incidents where children were abandoned, it was always the woman’s fault — we started asking the question: but where were the men?”

“This is a huge milestone for us and I feel as if we have made a difference somewhere especially in the newsrooms … maybe not so much in the electronic media but we are working on it,” said the centre’s director while talking to Dawn.

“We are also looking at dramas now because all these entertainment shows that we watch — the dialogues are so loaded that we are working on that … there is a long journey ahead. When we started out we wanted to stop the media from showing acts of violence against women. Now it’s not just that, everything is so patriarchal and misogynistic. You feel as if you have been pushed a hundred years back,” she added.

Responding to a question about where she sees Uks in the next 20 years, the director said she hoped to establish a radio station for women.

The event was attended by several people, including journalists Afia Salam, Ghazi Salahuddin, Zubeida Mustafa, OUP’s Ameena Saiyid, PTI’s Nusrat Wahid and others.

A short montage of old photographs and messages from friends of Uks were also played at the event.


Originally published in Dawn, December 24th, 2017

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