Islamabad-Coalition for Women in Journalism on Tuesday launched Pakistan chapter with the aim to provide safe and equal working environment for mid-career female journalists in media industry.

Renowned female journalists linked with the industry held a panel discussion here to share their experiences. The discussion focused on difficulties they face during their career and why they have to give up the profession due to lack of mentorship from any proper forum.

The panelists included Marvi Sirmed, Nosheen Abbas, Kiran Nazish, Amber Shamsi and Tanzeela Mazhar. They stressed upon the significance of CFWIJ in the current working environment and said that it will provide female working journalists a platform to address their professional problems.

“We are delighted to lay the foundations of an incredible team in Pakistan. There is some tremendous work that women in journalism are doing in this country. We hope to elevate that talent,” said Kiran Nazish, Co-Founder and Director of the CFWIJ.

She informed that the research to gauge the landscape in Pakistan for women journalists found that 69% of female colleagues faced harassment on the job, while 24.1% said they did not.

It is an alarming number but hopefully with a stronger support network in this country, the situation could be improved through advocacy and awareness, she added.

Human Rights activist Marvi Sirmed said that there is no precise data available on how many women are discriminated against, harassed and not provided a safe work environment in media organizations.

“There is a need to create awareness about gender discrimination in media organizations,” she added.

She said that women face a number of problems in the field of media ranging from mobility issues to stereotypes against them. Following the United Nations (UN) theme of ‘He for She’, she claimed that these problems can be tackled through the cooperation of men.

Country Manager CFWIJ Nosheen Abbas said that women have been working in every aspect of journalism in Pakistan, yet there is no support system to address the issues they face.

“This is what the coalition is here to do. I am honored and thrilled to be a part of a something that has been so long overdue,” she said.

Journalist Tanzeela Mazhar said that media organizations in Pakistan don’t have gender codes. They lack both resources and the understanding that gender specific environment is a critical need of an industry with an incredible number of women working both in its newsrooms and as freelancers.  “We want to build a thorough environment that encourages, instead of discourages them to work in journalism,” she said.

Journalist Kathy Ganon said that an equal level playing field must be given to male and female journalists as females have also contributed to the field with the best of their abilities.

Coalition for Women in Journalism is the first global network of support for women journalists. Its core operation is the mentorship program for mid-career and senior women journalists. The New York based network works in seven countries offering mentorship in local languages.

In Pakistan the network will operate in all major cities including Islamabad, Lahore, Karachi, Peshawar and Quetta.