A new network in Kabul is giving Afghan women a platform to express the ideas and news that matter to them most.
Zan TV — which translates to “Women’s TV” — is the first of its kind in the country, with an essential focus on female empowerment. All of the station’s broadcasters and producers are women, who will report news that interests and impacts women. The first broadcast aired on May 21.
Zan TV hopes to be a space for women in a media industry that often overlooks women’s stories, perspectives, and interests. The channel plans to cover a wide variety of topics, from news to entertainment to religion.
“We face many challenges, as this television [station] is dedicated to women, and we are living in a male-dominated society where less attention is given to women and their rights,” Zan TV presenter Shamela Rasooli told Reuters. “So this television channel has been created so that we can fight for the rights of women and raise their voices for everyone [to hear].”
More than 50 women are involved in creating and producing Zan TV. Because the station is working with a minimal budget, many of the women are students supplementing their education with hands-on experience.
“This station represents women, and we work to raise the voice of women so they can defend their rights.”
While all producers and presenters are women, Zan TV was created by man. Media entrepreneur Hamid Samar told Reuters he was inspired to create the network after looking through job applications for another news station. Many women were applying for the role of an anchor, though cultural taboos almost ensured the role would go to a man.
Access to education and media training is still a new development for women in Afghanistan after the toppling of the Taliban’s rule over the region 16 years ago. Under Taliban rule, women were kept out of schools, and journalism was banned except for news-like programs spreading the political movement’s propaganda.
To help compensate for the lack of technical training and education granted to women, around 16 male technicians work behind the scenes at Zan TV in graphics, camera operation, and editing. In their roles, those male employees also train women in the technical aspects of media creation, helping them gain the same skills even without formal training.
Creating such a groundbreaking network, however, doesn’t come without risk in a society that champions male leadership and power.
“Since I began working in the media, I have received many threats,” Rasooli said. “Even my family members oppose my jobs, and my relatives, uncles, and cousins say, ‘It’s not right for a girl to work in a TV station.’ But I ignore them so I can achieve my goals.”
Rasooli isn’t alone. Many women working for Zan TV also have strained relationships with their family. But they view their work as vital to asserting their voices, and helping to further women’s rights in Afghanistan.
“I am so happy that this TV station has been created for women, because there are women in our society who are not aware of their rights,” producer Khatira Ahmadi told Reuters. “So this station represents women, and we work to raise the voice of women so they can defend their rights.”