By Samya Ayish
‘It took me just one moment to realise the impact women could have through telling stories of their communities. The past few years have proven to me that when you educate women, you empower them.’
This thought crossed my mind while at the 14th annual Arab Reporters for Investigative Journalism forum in 2021, the second virtual forum, held in Amman, Jordan. At the time, I was attending a panel titled ‘Arab Women Journalists and Creating Social Impact,’ hosted by Jordanian journalist Etaf Roudan, Lebanese journalist Dalal Saoud, and the co-founder of Daraj Media in Lebanon, Diana Moukalled (the session was moderated by Fatima Farag of the World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers).
The panel presented an intriguing dialogue between the four women that revolved around the role of women in newsrooms, how leadership has changed in the past few years, their personal experiences of tackling the challenges imposed on them by their local communities and the trials they had to undergo to create the impact they had hoped to achieve.
I was especially taken by a statement that Moukalled made: ‘We, as women, have to work harder compared to our male counterparts to be in their position and to enjoy the privileges they have. Women in the media have always been portrayed in a specific way, and Arab women in newsrooms had to suffer as a result of that, so it was always hard for them to be in leadership positions. Women had to always come in specific sizes and look to fit those portrayals. They had to play their roles perfectly in a newsroom, in addition to all the other roles they have, such as being mothers, daughters, sisters, wives etc.’
Throughout my twelve years working as a journalist, I have seen that women who lead their teams are described as ‘bossy’ just because they distribute work and give tasks to their team members. At the same time, I have never heard any man being described as bossy. I have read about women who love the idea of being on screen as presenters and anchors but they were denied the opportunity because they would not cut their hair in a certain way or lose weight to meet the network standards. In her book, On All Fronts, Clarissa Ward, a senior correspondent at CNN, writes about her experience with international brands, for which she had to abide by certain standards that made all women on screen look the same.
Moukalled’s words caused me to think about the type of impact each of us could have by making a change in our surroundings. It made me ask myself, have I impacted someone’s life and changed it for the better?
This feature article is part of The Womanhood Issue. To continue reading this article digitally click here to buy a digital copy of the issue. To read the entirety of this article in print, click here to order a print copy of the issue.
The views of the authors and writers who contribute to Sekka, and the views of the interviewees who are featured in Sekka, do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of Sekka, its parent company, its owners, employees and affiliates.