Media and Women Development in Afghanistan
4.7 Development in the Media and Journalism
A renewed stress on researching media content is placed by the critiques of press freedom from the new propaganda and developmental journalism to study media outlets. In this regard, analyzing content, which is relatively complex and expensive, can usually take place during elections.
Content analysis is something that needs news translation which would take a great deal of time and/or requires judgments from groups of qualified scholars of the country on how specific news items should be categorized. Those content analyses connected with national elections are more likely to receive funding assistances from donors because elections can help the most to transition program. Comparative content analyses, particular comparing private owned and state outlets, are considered as important means of measuring the relative independence of different media outlets.
The main paradigm of having a free press in a nation is to create the audience for national media. While developmental journalism concentrates on the constructing specific group of audience and deliver their message to their group of audience and bring some considerable change to their audience life and opinions.
For example, to make sure how much the media has influenced the group of their audience in developmental system, surveys and listenership figures come to the aid of practitioners. To know exact figure of female listenership in the group of their audience they need to motivate women to take part in surveys and in polls.
There is an argument that developmental journalism brings more social changes and to challenge media transition researchers to measure how much media has effected the democracy transition programs. The suggested way of capturing aggregate effects of media was social mapping. (Price & others 2002: 9).
It is argued that mapping structure of media could be a great help to construct policy for using media in different ways to have a political transition. However, the attempt by Noah Miller to map the transition of Afghan media illustrates how difficult it is to map all the various media-related projects, leaving aside the task to give a conclusive comment on their long-term social effects. The task of capturing the entire universe of projects itself is very difficult. Miller‘s primary source of information on media projects was the Afghan Donor Assistance Database (Miller 2003: 25).
However, the database used is a compilation of donor self-reporting and may not reflect those NGO projects with multiple sources of funding. This makes the database woefully incomplete with new projects being funded and even the on-going projects changing plans and expanding into new areas, the database is also a constantly changing one. Some of these projects for example in the field of education and health do not fit exactly in the category of media (Miller 2003: 26).
Development communication and media transition both are concerned with forming the role of media in social changes. What is important for both is make a change, analysis the society, and measure effects of media in social development with the aid of some global models (Escobar 2000: 60).
It is difficult to say if media has effected the social transition in Afghanistan.
Miller believes the only way to prove media has come to help of this transformation is to see if Afghan themselves have learnt and gained the power to use media in social changes which only would be possible when international programs come to an end in the country (Escobar 2000: 60).
126 4.8 The Social Media and Women’s Awareness
Credit for the sudden increase of social media in the country can also be given to the cheaply and abundantly available Chinese-made smartphones. These phones can be bought at rates as cheap as $ 10, coupled with the falling prices of SIM cards. In a country like Afghanistan which has a young population of 68 percent under the age of 25, the social media has taken off spectacularly largely boosted by the huge growth of mobile internet use (independent.co.uk).
With the impact of media or better to say social media, incredible changes can be seen amongst Afghan women since the turn of the century. The World Bank reports that there has been a tremendous increase in the figures of women having access to formal education. In addition, according to the UN figures, the number of Afghans who has access to safe drinking water had also gone up from 4.8 percent to 60.6 percent by 2011 (World Bank report 2013: 11).
A British photographer called Jessica Fulford-Dobson visited Afghanistan in the summer of 2013. In that summer there was a national project in school that was concentrating on giving this chance to girls to take part in sports specially skateboarding. Before this education project, girls were not allowed to be in any sports program. Jessica captured photos of girls skateboarding in Kabul and published them in a book titled "skate girls in Kabul" and also exhibited at the Saatchi gallery.
She also had an opportunity of observing how Facebook found a way of being part Afghan's life specially young people she met during the time she stayed in Afghanistan (independent.co.uk).
―What was interesting was that, in a year, suddenly Facebook had popped up,‖ she says. ―The students I had photographed at the Afghan National Institute for Music, who were in their teens, were suddenly asking for my photographs for Facebook. I was showing one boy some of the pictures, a little street boy selling plastic bags, but suddenly he was saying 'I need that for my Facebook,' and I said 'Oh, you're on Facebook?' and he said 'Yes, we're all on it'. In just a year, it was a thing that was important for him‖ (independent.co.uk).
International development company GIZ studied internet user in seven major cities in Afghanistan including Kabul. This study shows that the sudden emergence of
social media ―has had a profound impact on communications in Afghanistan‖. The study showed the growing popularity of Facebook in the race for dominance in a brand new market.
―Social media documented the incident and those who shared it provided an opportunity for justice,‖ says Hamidi. ―Now when we claim that the judgments of the first court have not been fair, it is because of the videos we have seen. I think it helped the world to notice‖ (independent.co.uk).
However, it had been the case that men in communities outside Kabul had often shown their dislike over the efforts to change the attitudes. According to Hamidi, besides the many benefits social media offers for the country, it had also proved how widespread is this attitude toward the changes.
―It's horrible, when you read some of the posts,‖ she says. Describing the explosion of internet and telecoms in his country, Mashal says: ―It's hard to exaggerate just how much this growth has affected everything in Afghan life, maybe especially dating‖ (independent.co.uk).
Directed by the media affect theories, numerous studies had been done on the media representation of women around the world. The objectives of such studies had been to figure out how media present women, and how the media representation of women affect their role and perception in a society. Women‘s media had always been successful in using themes and women empowerment agenda and placed them within certain contexts, meaning that convey the messages directly to the target audiences.
As, Debra Merskin said in her article that women images ―(re)presented, re- (enforced), and repeated in the content of mass media and popular culture, had embedded the racist and sexist stereotypes in brands, labels, landforms, which is an exercise in power‖ (Gharji 2015: 50 & Merskin 2010: 92).
Hamidi says it is still not acceptable for girls to have their own pictures on their Facebook because it might cause problems for them in family and society. There are many women who use fake names and picture to keep their identity hidden. Parents and brothers don‘t let their daughters and sister share any picture since it is not right to keep your picture in public as a girl and might cause trouble for the girl and family (independent.co.uk).
Noorjahan Akbar is the author of a blog, "freewomenwriters.org", for young people to share their ideas and concerns about their country, about the impact of social media on the world around her. Her view of opinion is that it is more than complex to explain, however, Social media has opened a door to public to have a conversation about daily matters but sometimes Afghan conservative society draw women back to take part in these groups of conversations. for instance, Recently, there is a trend to publish photos of civil rights activists and defame them publicly on right-wing social media (noorjahanakbar.wordpress.com).
Hamidi still feels the fear of the future of women in her country when international forces depart the country and Taliban regain the power. ―Nothing is stable‖, she says. ―You become really hopeful and then something goes really wrong, something happens that creates a great question about what will happen to women in this country, like what happened to Farkhunda‖ who was murdered for burning the Quran and was falsely accused by a Mullah. She was recognised as a symbol of oppression of Afghan women (independent.co.uk).