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Egypt holds its first Roundtable for Women in News

Egypt holds its first Roundtable for Women in News

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WAN-IFRA’s Women in News (WIN) programme, funded by Sida, saw its first Roundtable on October 12, bringing together over a dozen editors-in-chief, managing editors, department heads and media directors from Egyptian media in Cairo. Discussions centered around finding ways to improve female journalists’ status in newsrooms, helping women move up the professional ladder and tackling the wider issue of gender bias in Egypt’s media landscape.

By Colette Davidson

Fatemah Farag, WIN MENA’s programme director, says the Roundtable was a way to kick off advocacy in Egypt. For many, she says, the discussions were eye-opening.

“Often times, there is equal representation of women and men in newsrooms but we find that women still have constraints,” says Farag. “It’s not necessarily the newsrooms holding them back but other cultural constraints that are coming into play.”

Many of these challenges stem from family obligations, which can be a reason why women journalists don’t move up the professional ladder. The group tackled the issue head-on, as well as an often sensitive issue for the country – sexual harassment and bullying in the workplace.

“There is the feeling that this happens in the workplace but it’s more so with sources when women journalists are out reporting,” says Farag.

Participants looked at the legal rights of women journalists in Egypt as a basis for their discussions, including Egypt’s labor law, which includes many aspects that are supportive of women, such as maternity leave and quality pay. The question for the group was, however, whether the law was being properly implemented.

Having a roundtable in Egypt is particularly important because of the country’s influential role in the Middle East. Due to its size and history, what happens in Egypt impacts the rest of the region.

“Egypt is the biggest market in the Middle East and it’s always rich with culture and a diversity of beliefs,” says Assem El Bassal, Egypt’s new Steering Committee member as well as the general manager at news portal Masrawy and a member of the ONA Media group’s Board of Directors.

El Bassal first joined WAN-IFRA five years ago as a mentor and says he plans to use his role as Steering Committee member to not only help create a clear vision of the future of women in newsrooms but also to develop an understanding among Egypt’s media professionals of the different roles of individuals and organizations.

“I hope to help the cause by building solid ground for understanding between all the members and to encourage new media entities to join the upcoming Roundtables,” says El Bassal.

One of the goals of the Roundtable was indeed to get Egypt’s most prominent media houses to come together on the topic of women in the news and commit to making the issue a priority in the future. The resources and information gathered at October’s Roundtable will provide fodder for the second one, to be scheduled later this year.

On the agenda could be the issue of safety and security for women journalists in Egypt, many of whom work without contracts or job security. Farag also hopes media outlets will conduct their own trainings to facilitate better policies, contracts and job security.

"It’s an opportunity for media organizations to put this together for themselves,” says Farag, “so that they can find ways to address gender sensitivity on their own.”

WAN-IFRA will hold its first MENA-wide regional roundtable in Barcelona, Spain on December 9 and 10 to coincide with WAN-IFRA's bi-annual board meeting. Top management from media in Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon and Palestine will be in attendance. 


Hedvig Lundstrom's picture

Hedvig Lundstrom


2016-11-15 14:17

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