ISLAMABAD: Individuall and Pakistan, an Islamabad consultancy and advocacy group with nationwide outreach, initiated a project with the support of USAID and Aurat Foundation on ‘Sensitisation of Media Personnel on Gender Equality’ in January last year, with a baseline survey to gauge existing perceptions of the public and media on gender equality.
The survey was carried out to substantiate claims that gender-based violence, particularly against women, has become a serious problem in Pakistan. One of the main reasons why such violence is still prevalent is the lack of education and awareness of gender-based issues. There are some areas in Pakistan that are particularly notorious for such crimes. Another reason why such crimes are still being committed is the involvement of powerful and influential people that exploit religion and culture for their own benefits. Results of this survey were representative of the fact that gender-based violence and injustices are prevalent in Pakistan, particularly in areas still under the influence of feudal culture. For instance in Chaghai and Pishin, Balochistan, women did not even participate in the survey.
There is an alarming trend of accepting unjust social practices such as honour killings, especially in the rural areas of all provinces. Although, the majority of both male and female respondents did not agree with domestic violence and unjust social practices (79% KP, 82% Punjab, 90% Baluchistan, 85% Sindh, 85% Islamabad/Rawalpindi and 90% in Gilgit-Baltistan), in practice they observed and accepted such practices. The baseline survey took women’s education as another indicator of the level of gender equality in Pakistan. Girls go to school in all provinces but the percentages vary: 79.5 percent of girls in KP, 75.5 percent in Punjab, 85 percent in Balochistan, 83.5 percent in Sindh, 95 percent in Islamabad and 93.5 percent in Gilgit-Baltistan go to school.
After concluding the baseline survey, nationwide sensitisation of media personnel was initiated through training workshops. A total of 23 training workshops were conducted in all the major cities of Pakistan and representatives of radio, TV and print media attended these training sessions.
After the conclusion of training workshops, focus group discussions were initiated. A total of five focus group discussions were held in Lahore, Karachi, Islamabad, Quetta and Peshawar. After concluding the FGDs, an End Line survey has been initiated to gauge public perceptions regarding media’s portrayal of gender issues through talk shows, TV serials, news reports, articles in print and documentaries etc. Once the results of the survey are compiled, a conclusion about media’s role in highlighting gender issues will be drawn.