In­side Zan TV

Tele­vi­sion chan­nel run by women for women in Afghanistan

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Afghanistan’s first all-fe­male TV sta­tion.

Wel­come to Zan TV, the first all fe­male tele­vi­sion chan­nel in Afghanistan. Cre­ated, run and pre­sented by women, its pro­grammes deal with sub­jects such as ac­cess to ed­u­ca­tion, pol­i­tics, forced mar­riages, and vi­o­lence on a daily ba­sis.… In a coun­try that lives in the shadow of the Tal­iban, Zan TV is pro­mot­ing women’s rights and well-be­ing.

Af­ter a city-wide bill­board campaign fea­tur­ing a group of young women stand­ing with arms folded, the women’s me­dia net­work Zan TV launched in Kabul, Afghanistan, five months ago, with a panel dis­cus­sion about the right to vote and a Face­book cover photo that read: “We mir­ror you all”.

2. Zan, mean­ing “women” in Ara­bic, is the first TV sta­tion in Afghanistan to be made for and run en­tirely by women. It’s a rad­i­cal ini­tia­tive for a coun­try where the tele­vi­sion in­dus­try is run solely by men and where just 16 years ago, jour­nal­ism and even ac­cess to ed­u­ca­tion for women were banned. “We want women to have an ac­tive role in pol­i­tics and so­ci­ety,” says Nas­rine Nawa, 26, Zan’s di­rec­tor of news pro­gram­ming. “We’re em­pow­er­ing them to lead in­de­pen­dent lives out­side the home.”

EM­POW­ER­ING WOMEN

3. Nawa’s mis­sion is to train the next gen­er­a­tion of fe­male Afghan jour­nal­ists. Fifty women aged 17 to 28 work for Zan; half are qual­i­fied, half are learn­ing on the job. “Many trained jour­nal­ists are job­less be­cause most TV sta­tions won’t em­ploy women, so we do. We also want to train young women who might not have ac­cess to ed­u­ca­tion be­cause of where they live or their fam­ily,” says Nawa.

4. The TV sta­tion was founded by the me­dia en­tre­pre­neur Hamid Sa­mar, who saw a gap in the mar­ket when go­ing through dozens of job ap­pli­ca­tions from women at an­other TV sta­tion. The Afghan me­dia land­scape is al­ready packed, with about 70 satel­lite TV sta­tions, and com­pe­ti­tion for rat­ings is rife. 5. Zan’s task is to build an au­di­ence by de­vel­op­ing cut­ting-edge shows on the is­sues af­fect­ing mil­len­nial Afghan women, such as ne­go­ti­at­ing Is­lam as a fem­i­nist, re­pro­duc­tive rights, man­ag­ing fi­nances and ca­reers. The most pop­u­lar shows are the Daily News show hosted by Yasamin Yar­mal and a weekly evening show that fea­tures con­ver­sa­tions with rad­i­cal Afghan women such as the politi­cian and ac­tivist Fa­reeda Kuchi Balkhi, from Afghanistan’s no­madic Kuchi tribe. Zan also runs a day­time cook­ery pro­gramme on how to make speedy healthy meals.

6. “What makes us stand out is that we talk about every­thing that has touched women’s lives,” says Nawa. “Women have been a marginalised com­mu­nity for so long in Afghanistan. We want to prove they have the power to take con­trol and change their lives, if they want.”

7. For a new TV sta­tion, the rat­ings are im­pres­sive. Ac­cord­ing to Sa­mar, an av­er­age of 90,000 peo­ple are tun­ing into the morn­ing news pro­gramme.

8. Mehria Azali, 22, is a jour­nal­ist and pre­sen­ter at Zan. She is keen to in­tro­duce a strong fe­male nar­ra­tive to the Afghan news agenda and ex­plore is­sues such as un­der­age mar­riage, rape and ac­cess to ed­u­ca­tion. “Dur­ing the Tal­iban’s rule, women were wanted in the home to sat­isfy male needs,” she says. “Things have got bet­ter, but rights for women are still very bad, es­pe­cially out­side Kabul. When they watch TV, Afghan women don’t see is­sues that af­fect them be­ing talked about. We want to change that.”

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