By Shadi Khan Saif
Amid a raging insurgency, deteriorating economy and restrictions on civil liberties, Afghanistan has launched a television channel dedicated to women.
Zan TV, or Women TV, is a round-the-clock digital satellite channel that aims to portray the achievements of Afghan women as well as the daily challenges they face to a global audience.
Hamid Samar, the channel’s founder and director, is optimistic about its prospects.
“Zan TV is the first TV channel in the history of Afghanistan run by women and for women,” he told Anadolu Agency.
Samar said that although aid agencies had invested heavily to promote opportunities for females in Afghanistan, nothing substantial had been achieved.
Following the fall of the Taliban government in 2002, generous funding by the aid community led to the advent and growth of private media that had previously been non-existent.
Currently, around 76 private and public TV channels are operating but many depend on aid and grants to survive in an economy that is still affected by ongoing fighting and terror attacks.
“We hope the international donors will help and support us to make Zan TV a sustainable project for many years to come, until it becomes a key player in the industry”, Samar said.
However, the passion and zeal of the station’s female staff has made it a unique initiative for promoting women’s issues.
Addressing a women’s symposium titled Afghan Women, Messengers of Peace last month, President Ashraf Ghani said real peace could only be achieved when men and women enjoy fundamental rights.
“Fortunately, we are following the religion where humans are not divided based on gender, but men and women are equal and endowed with equal prestige and status according to human dignity,” he told the audience.
- Unique initiative
If it had not been for the conflicts that have plagued Afghanistan for decades, thousands of women would be doctors, engineers, nurses, teachers and prominent members of society rather than living lives marked by deprivation and sorrow, the president added.
Mehria Afzali, head of the political affairs section at Zan TV, said the channel wanted top show what women were capable of achieving.
“For me, it does not matter if I am working alongside men or women but of course, I feel more comfortable with women,” she said.
“We want to prove with Zan TV that Afghan women are strong and capable of doing so many things.”
Although the government finalized a national action plan for women, it is yet to arrange a budget.
The Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission reported 2,621 cases of domestic violence in the first eight months of 2016 -- a similar figure to 2015 although the number is likely to be higher due to under-reporting.
Zan TV currently has two offices in Afghanistan but aims to spread across the country. Reaching remote rural areas where women face the greatest challenges is a key aim.
Afzali predicted Zan TV, which began transmissions on Saturday, would prove to be an invaluable resource for women.
“We aim also to address the issues of women’s health, education, family planning, poverty and so on,” she said.
The station also plans to train a new generation of female journalists, presenters and technicians so it can continue to be entirely by women.