KABUL — When a series of terrorist attacks rocked the Afghan capital late last month, killing more than 150, less than a kilometer away from worst blast, a group of women were busy preparing a morning show for the country's only TV station run by women.
Zan TV, or Women's TV, was launched this month, dedicated to women's voices and women's issues.
Since the end of Taliban rule in 2001, Afghanistan has gone from having just one state-owned TV station to 76 stations broadcasting across the country. But despite the proliferation of channels, women are often neglected by the Afghan media. For Basira Joya, a presenter at Zan TV, working at the new station is more than just a job. "We have been repeating slogans that women and men have equal rights, but in reality that's not the case," she said. "Our aim is to amplify the voices of women and girls, so we can make equality a reality."
Zan TV is trying to keep the staff entirely female, but this is no easy feat. Under Taliban rule, women were banned from working. Now women are back in the workplace but are still building up skills and experience, Joya says.
Our aim is to amplify the voices of women and girls, so we can make equality a reality.
"I had no working experience; when I found out that Zan TV was opening up, I was encouraged," Joya said. "My father and mother encouraged me too. My main objective is to be a good presenter and serve my nation in this way."
Salma Rasa, 26, records a program at Zan TV in Kabul - Photo: Rahmat Alizadah via ZUMA
Gender discrimination and harassment are significant barriers for women in the workplace. But Joya is optimistic that Zan TV will create a space for women to thrive.
"Every year thousands of women graduate from journalism faculties, and it is great for women to come and get experience and training here."
For now, 54 out of the 70 staff members are women, with 16 men doing technical jobs. The station will provide technical and editorial training so that women can run all aspects of the programming.
Senior Editor Hosnia Mohaqiq says the response from women has been overwhelming. "Women and girls are increasingly interested to work for Zan TV, it gives them hope and encouragement, and when people with such motivation work, they work very well," she said.
After three months of off-air test transmissions, Zan TV officially started broadcasting on air last Saturday. It already has over 100,000 followers on Facebook.