Digital Skill Needs for Media Women in Nepal

We asked members to communicate about a crucial issue in their region and what women in media can do.  

Neeta Shapkota writes: the murder of a girl child goes viral in Nepal, but it does not result in justice.

In front of the police office, around fifteen women were gathered, and others were continuing to arrive. Some of them were crying, while some were demanding punishment for the guilty, who the police still hadn’t arrested.  Three days had passed since a thirteen-year-old girl from a remote village in the far western district of Kanchanpur had been raped and murdered, then thrown into a sugarcane field. Left, the mother of the murdered girl in red dress is pictured with neighbours and social activists. photo source: online media.

The photo of the dead child was going viral on social media and was grabbing headlines on television and radio. There was demand from all sides that the guilty should be given strict punishment. However, it was widely felt that the district office, which oversees prosecutions, was being lethargic in its decision making. This incident took place in a remote village, so it failed to create a substantial amount of pressure on the central parliament in Kathmandu. This sort of localized pressure moves up and around in Nepal through different types of media coverage for certain periods of time, however, its effects and results remain inadequate.

In Nepal, ninety percent of gender-based violence is found to be against women, within which, domestic violence and sexual violence are most prevalent. Rape cases of women under the age of fifteen have also been registered in large numbers. Past events and turmoil in the country, such as the Civil War, political instabilities, and the devastating earthquake of 2015, have played a major role in increasing the risk of violence against women and children.

In such situations, media can play a crucial role to prevent, control, and make the society aware regarding such issues.

"Whenever the cases like violence against women arise in Nepal, we expand our reactions immediately in the media and social sites, and then gradually, the responses drop off. The society blames the women journalists and activists for not giving pressure to the government, then slowly the voice ends, and the same behaviour is repeated in next incident. This is why I feel that women should be empowered with powerful journalism skills to make the issue be heard. “

A senior women activist, Renu Adhikari Rajbhandari.

The Himalayan nation of Nepal has a total population of 26 million (National Population and Housing Census, 2011), where the population of women is nearly one million more than that of men. Nepal has made a significant progress in increasing access to the internet, mobile technology, and mobile phones in the last decade.

According to the Nepal Telecommunications authority, one third of the population use smart phones and accesses the internet from hand-held devices, which includes women as well. This can be seen pictured right left as a mother and her children use a mobile in a remote hilly village of Nepal. Photo source: Neeta Shapkota

Any form of news or content being accessed in Nepal, like text, audio, or video, that is posted on the internet is much faster than the traditional forms of journalism.

In this regard, digital journalism is very different from the traditional journalism and learning technology is not only the transformation needed - we as journalists have to be prepared with skills, knowledge and a new mindset

Recently, I was reporting from a big rally which was against domestic violence. Despite the situation and the issue of the rally, its participants were busy taking selfies, posing for group photos, and uploading it on social sites for their friends. None of them were concerned with me or my big television camera. and the time I will take to do a mature balanced report on this important issue.

pictured left, Women in Dailekh, being interviewed in one of the remote district of Nepal Photo source-Neeta Shapkota 

Nowadays, we are used to internet facilities and smartphones. But are we as journalists using these tools to empower ourselves or to upgrade our professional skills? This question suddenly strikes me, and it has made me look forward to acquiring skills in digital journalism. 

The society and the nation, nowadays, are demanding competitive and powerful media personalities. So, it is high time we moved forward with confidence and command of technical-skills.  Otherwise, the voices of women journalists on issues that concern us might remain behind - as an immaterial image.

Digital journalism is the way to tell the story of the changing time and trends in Nepal, to make the task of reporting and storytelling powerful, interactive, responsive, and effective.

The women in media are usually found to be occupied with their comfort zone, so the transformation of technology along with digitisation is a must, to make them think outside the box.

The powerful story and content can only be created and be heard if the women working in media acquire and empower themselves with digital skills and knowledge of this digital era.

Thoughts on Digital platforms for IAWRT members;

In Nepal, different types of orientation, training, seminars and workshops are targeted at media people and conducted annually in large numbers by media houses, NGOs and INGOs. However, there are fewer women journalists than male colleagues in this training.

With the changing scenario and the demands of time, these activities should focus on the latest technology and trends. Women journalists who are deprived of the opportunities to empower and update themselves should be the target group for training in digital journalism.

Accessing digital news is a rapidly growing custom for readers, viewers and listeners and the media industry is changing the patterns of dissemination, according to the people’s choices. Large numbers of journalists from the developing countries (global South) are somehow trying to face the challenges of fulfilling the demands of the digital age.

So, it is high time that we were enabled to be prepared to overcome the challenges. It helps women journalists to acquire new skills and knowledge and on the other hand it boosts their confidence in their ability to produce timely and effective content.

Locally, the IAWRT Chapter can seek funding for training from different organizations particularly for digital journalism and women. Internationally, IAWRT might create an exchange program of content, storytelling, and forums for sharing about women’s issues after the training.

Digitally we all belong to a small world and funding might be provided through the international organization for those who are interested in women issues around the world. This kind of network of exchange programs or forums for sharing the issues of respective countries can lead to an effective and attractive platform for IAWRT International and local chapter members.

Neeta Shapkota, Executive producer, Nepal Television is a member of the Board of IAWRT-Nepal and will be attending the Uganda Regional Conference.