Conflict is a great equaliser, say female war correspondents

New Delhi, March 5 (IANS) Men think women are weaker, but that is not true, especially in the context of surviving in or reporting from conflict zones, say women from such areas or women correspondents with experience of reporting there.

Participating in a panel discussion on the topic “Conflict, Gender and Media” organised by the International Association of Women in Radio & Television, independent filmmakers Iffat Fatima (Delhi), Shahd J.S. Al Hindi (Palestine), Samah Al Khwaja (Palestine) and journalist Patricia Mukhim (The Shillong Times) discussed the challenges faced by women living in conflict zones, while journalists Suhasini Haider (The Hindu), Maya Mirchandani (NDTV), Ellen Barry (New York Times) and Aunohita Mojumdar meanwhile related their experiences as war correspondents.

The two sessions were moderated by veteran journalists Pamela Philipose and Nupur Basu respectively.

Speaking of the challenges women living in conflict areas face, Mukhim said that trials and tribulations faced by women in the conflict zones seldom come to the fore as women have no voice.

“The conflict is thought to be a ‘man’ thing. So women have no voice,” she said, adding the mainstream media dehumanises the conflict.

Speaking about conflict in Kashmir, Fatima said that what troubled her most – and many others like her – was the “normalisation of militarisation”.

“Militarisation is complete lack of imagination,” she said.

Haider, Mirchandani, Barry and Mojumdar described the challenges they faced while covering conflict, which is considered a men-only affair. For instance, Haidar related how once an Indian naval officer politely declined to take her on board the ship going to Lebanon.

“He gladly took rest of the journalists, who were all male, on board but politely refused to take me along. His concern was, and perhaps it was a genuine concern, that there were 400 men on the vessel and not a single woman at that time,” Suhasini said.

Mirchandani said that women are thought to be soft targets in conflict areas.

Barry said that perceptions about women covering war and conflict were changing and now most of the world’s leading news organisations were not hesitant to deploy female journalists in conflict zones.

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