''Chobi Mela Shunno'', currently underway at DrikPath Bhobon, celebrated Solidarity Day on February 15. A panel discussion featuring female journalists and photojournalists was held on that day. Moderated by Saydia Gulrukh, the discussion featured Joyeeta Roy, staff journalist at Bangladesh Protidin, Sabina Yasmine, staff photojournalist at Prothom Alo, Sadia Marium, member of the Kaali collective and Zyma Islam, staff reporter at The Daily Star.
The media industry in Bangladesh is largely male dominated. In Bangladesh, Sayeda Khanum and Selina Parvin have paved the way for female journalists by inspiring numerous young women to pursue the profession.
Interestingly, a picture taken by renowned photographer and founder of Chobi Mela Shahidul Alam on the first day of the festival, shows a female photojournalist amongst her male counterparts, struggling to get a good shot of the inauguration. "Just like this picture, female journalists often have to fight on busy streets and crowded locations in order to get their work done," added Saydia.
Sadia Marium, who is a student of Pathshala, wanted to be a journalist from early on. She worked at Dhaka Tribune for two years. "Journalism restricted my freedom to some extent and I embarked on a new path, exploring photography and art beyond a profession," she shared. Pathshala has been working with photographers for over a decade and has helped several photojournalists establish their careers in the media industry. Although the number of female photojournalists is low at the moment, the profession is slowly gaining popularity among many young women.
Joyeeta, who has been working at Bangladesh Protidin for the past 12 years, reflects on her journey by sharing instances, where she had to reach a spot before her male colleagues, as they had better chances. "I have always wanted to click pictures that speak volumes, and cared little about them being published. I have tried to be everywhere I could find a story, be it a fire outbreak or a political riot," she further said.
Sabina regards journalism to be a very strenuous job for women, given the safety issues and low salary scale. "Throughout my career, I had to regularly prove my worth with respect to my male colleagues," she asserted. "Women are always given stories related to culture and heritage, or much easier topics. We are not expected to fight the odds and click a picture. We are not able to cherish the true essence of journalism." Talking about the impact of their work, Sadia said that even a small change provoked by their stories is a great source of empowerment.
Generally, stories related to gender-based violence and women's rights are assigned to female journalists, considering the sensitivity of these issues. There are several instances when they have to fight with their authorities before publishing a news report. "After the Begumganj incident, I was struggling to establish the fact that it was a rape case, because the rapist used an object to commit the crime," shared Zyma. "I have to constantly teach my male colleagues about the differences between sex and rape, when it is not my job. I understand that talking about women is my responsibility, but it is not only my responsibility to do so. Everyone needs to be a part of these conversations."
These journalists also face discrimination at work. "We are regularly discriminated against at our workplaces and the negotiations are exhausting. We are teased for the causes we advocate for," concluded Saydia.