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Inclusivity in Ink: Bridging Divides Through Women Journalists in Sri Lanka

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Inclusivity in Ink: Bridging Divides Through Women Journalists in Sri Lanka

The Sri Lanka Press Institute (SLPI) held a panel discussion yesterday, (08), in Colombo, on the position of Women Journalists in Sri Lanka’s digital age. The event was attended by women journalists, content creators, representatives of media organizations, and civil society organizations and university students. The event was held under the theme of “Inclusivity in Ink: Bridging Divides Through Women Journalists in Sri Lanka”.

The panel discussion was held with the support of the Strengthening Social Cohesion and Peace in Sri Lanka programme (SCOPE) co-funded by the European Union and German Federal Foreign Office.

The panelists, Shyamala Gomez, Executive Director of Centre for Equality and Justice, Hana Ibrahim, Editor of Daily and Weekend Express and Isurika Perera, Junior Research Analyst of Verite Research shared their perspectives on the persistent gender gap within Sri Lankan media and its impact on women journalists, and women in general.

Opening the discussion, English News anchor at Sri Lanka Rupavahini Corporation, Dulanjali Abeykoon, acting as moderator of the panel, emphasized the timely nature of the discussion, highlighting how the digital age, coupled with the current economic crisis, shapes the role of women journalists. She pointed out that ensuring internet freedom and accessibility for women is crucial as it helps bridge the digital gender gap and create a more equal society.

Shyamala Gomez emphasized on unique challenges faced by women such as Sexual and Gender Based Violence, sexual bribery, and cyber sexual violence. She observed how social responsibilities are often framed as women’s responsibilities by employers, contrary to the ILO conventions ratified by Sri Lanka. She further highlighted the importance of women speaking up and requesting for the installment of Complaints Commissions in their places of work to facilitate a fair and just accountability process.

Speaking at the discussion, Hana Ibrahim discussed the resilience of women journalists and indicated that although a large number of young women enter the industry as they continue to climb the ranks the number of women journalists in decision making positions is limited. She also emphasized on the importance of women journalists lobbying for their rights in the workplace, pitching women centric stories, and being the conduit for stories of discrimination, harassment, and injustices of women in society being published.

Isurika Perera, in the macroeconomic perspective, noted that there are thematic similarities in the lived experiences of women across industries. She observed the discrimination women face in interviews, the emphasis on their roles as caregivers, safety in the workplace, and unexplained factors of the gender wage gap. She further highlighted the fact that although Sri Lanka sees a high percentage of women going into tertiary education, this is not reflected in the employment statistics. The three panelists also noted the importance of women journalists in taking such conversations out into the public.

The discussion highlighted women journalists as storytellers capable of creating impactful narratives and addressing barriers to the empowerment of women and girls in the greater society. The discussion concluded by emphasizing how women journalism can serve as a powerful bridge, amplifying the voices of underrepresented communities and fostering critical conversations for a more socially cohesive Sri Lanka.

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