Women reluctant to take up climate journalism: study

KARACHI: Despite scientific evidence of apocalyptic times to come due to climate change, fewer journalists — especially women — are writing on issues around environment with the media failing to spur a comprehensive social response in Pakistan.

The study — titled Missing in Action: Why are fewer women journalists in Pakistan writing on environment — examined whether there was a dearth of women journalists in Pakistan, particularly those writing on issues centering on environment and climate change.

Authored by journalist Zofeen T. Ebrahim, the study observed that while there were more male journalists in Pakistan, only a minuscule number of the already few women journalists were writing on an issue that disproportionately affected them. Just as there were fewer women writers, there were fewer women scientists, experts, and politicians quoted, and their point of view was rarely carried in these stories, it added.

The motivation behind the study — which was carried out with help from students of Habib University’s Social Development and Policy department — was to argue that it was vital for women to give voice to their own; relay not just their problems, but to establish that being forerunners in environmental conservation, they intuitively carry traditional wisdom; were resilient and could strategise and change when empowered economically and armed with scientific and technical knowledge.

The general consensus was that it was crucial for both men and women to write more on environment, but it was absolutely vital for more women journalists to jump into the fray, not only because women constituted almost half of the population, but more importantly, because of their role as managers of natural resources, it made them especially vulnerable to the vagaries of climate change. Thus, the study argued, their voices needed to be heard.

The study said women writings on environment and its impact would bring out certain “sensibilities” which would otherwise remain missing if written by men from their perspective, in the larger discourse around the topic.

The reasons given by women journalists for their reluctance in taking up the topic of environment in their writings were several. For some, it stemmed from their fear of it being a science topic which was intimidating and required deconstructing data which they did not feel they had the capacity for. For others, it required giving more time and fair amount of legwork that acted as a deterrent.

In order to bridge the gap and improve environmental coverage, the study recommended raising awareness among philanthropists, corporate sector, publishers, even the government, on the value and importance of environmental news reporting.

Dawn