In patriarchal Afghanistan, where the media industry -- like the rest of society -- is dominated by men, a new TV channel dedicated to women is set to begin broadcasting.
Zan TV Dari for “Women's TV” is set to launch on May 21. All its presenters and producers are female. They expect to gain a large viewership following an aggressive marketing campaign on social media and huge billboards in the capital, Kabul.
Khatira Ahmadi, 20, is a producer at the station, and she is looking forward to presenting her creations to Afghan women.
"I am so happy this TV station has been created for women because there are women in our society who are not aware of their rights," she said. "This station represents women, and we work to raise the voice of women so they can defend their rights.”
Female newsreaders, singers, politicians, and officials appear regularly on many Afghan channels, but an entire station for women is a novelty. Zan TV’s arrival marks the change taking place in Afghanistan despite the ongoing violence.
The Afghan government and foreign aid organizations often cite women’s rights and education and the country’s relatively free mushrooming media as among their major achievements since the demise of the Taliban regime in late 2001.
Afghanistan, however, remains one of the most dangerous places for women journalists. A media watchdog says more than 100 women journalists have left the profession in recent years because of mounting violence and threats. With a crowded TV landscape of around 40 stations, the media market is highly competitive with little guarantee of success.
Hamid Samar, a media entrepreneur and founder of Zan TV, hopes to tap into potentially large female audiences in big cities like Kabul.
"There has been a lot of talk about women's rights and media rights. But we've never seen anything special for women, and that's why we've done this," he said.
The station is now running on a frugal budget and operates out of a basic studio in Kabul. By employing low-cost digital technology, Zan TV now focuses on talk shows and health and music programs.
The TV’s team, mainly young students, hope their enthusiasm makes up for what they lack in experience and skills.
Some 16 male technicians handle the graphics, camera operation, and editing. Their behind-the-scenes operations include training female colleagues.
In conservative Afghanistan, some staff like Ahmadi have had to cope with disapproving family members or face down threats to work as journalists.
Ahmadi, however, is determined to be part of an effort aimed at giving a new generation of women a chance to work in media.
"I came to share my experience with colleagues here, and I am really happy working along with the other girls," she noted.
-- Sayed Hassib wrote this for Reuters