Profile of Moneeza Hashmi, executive producer, PTV

Moneeza Hashmi, executive producer, PTV —a profile

moneeza hashmi"You cannot slap a woman across the cheek on TV! I will not allow it!" Thanks to Moneeza no programme, or popular soap on Pakistan's national television can show a woman being slapped or abused. "It was common to show women being beaten or thrashed in TV serials. No one seemed to see anything wrong in it. But being a woman, I had to act since such depiction is demeaning. Today, slapping a woman is banned on PTV." That's Moneeza!

As an Indian one easily gets drawn to Moneeza Hashmi, whom I met at the Reproductive health and the media workshop held recently at Kuala Lumpur in April. She's the daughter of the late Urdu poet Faiz Ahmad Faiz, equally revered on both sides of the border. Moneeza was a faculty member and her NGO, Himmat Society of Pakistan, a co-organiser of the international workshop.

She finds it difficult to talk about her father, with whom she shared a
close emotional bond. "I've locked away my memories. But I'll share them
with you later," she says with her voice choking. Without probing further, we start talking about her career and her uphill ascent along PTV's rungs, where she started out as an actor and anchor in 1965.

She is among the rare women mediapersons to have reached a senior management position with Pakistan's national television. "Women must be in positions of authority to bring about any change and project a more positive portrayal of women in the media." Moneeza has introduced gender training programmes at PTV. Through a UNDP-PTV project, she produced a documentary on the "Portrayal of Women in the Media." She was also instrumental in the launch of Khawateen Times, an hour-long programme for women each night.

This year on March 23, she received the President's Pride of Performance
award for professional achievement. The award is open to professionals from all fields and Moneeza is one of the few women in Pakistan to have won it.

The political instability of her country she said posed serious challenges to her work. "But I've never been bullied, not even in those eleven years of martial law, when I went into semi-exile," she says. What was it like to live under martial law and Zia-ul-Haq who prescribed the mandatory "Chaadar aur chaardiwari" (veil and four walls of the home) pill for women? "It was the worst phase of my professional life. I wasn't given work and for years would go to office and just sit around idly. The idea was to break one's spirit. Needless to say there was no freedom of the press."

Unable to take this anti-liberal, anti-progressive, anti-women environment
back home, she left on a scholarship to the USA for two years. "I had to
leave my sons and family behind so it was a hard choice to make, yet it was
important to me." On her return she says, "I started flirting with journalism, writing columns, prose pieces etc."

A turning point in her career was 1988, when Benazir Bhutto came to power. She was appointed managing director with PTV. However policies related to the media kept changing with successive governments. "It was almost embarrassing to be in the media, as the policies were so diverse."

Has she felt discriminated against on account of her gender? Moneeza says, "Yes, as a woman and as Faiz's daughter, I've had to face resistance from my colleagues and people in power. Even today there are very few women in PTV's senior management. If I move to the headquarters in Islamabad, I'll be the only woman there. But I can be aggressive, not merely assertive to get my point across now. I've learnt it the hard way."

Moneeza and eight other members set up the Himmat Society in 1986 to
advocate women and children's issues. As part of a UNDP-PTV project, Himmat Society was identified as one of the partners to set up media watch chapters at Karachi, Peshawar, Lahore, Islamabad and Quetta, organising yearly meetings and national conferences on good governance, dowry, women, armed conflict and a host of other issues.

Moneeza continues to remain committed to the Himmat Society as it grows and increases its area of work. In fact true to its name, it's helped her steer
ahead with himmat (courage) and conviction. She's based in Lahore.

Write to Moneeza

— Profile by Soumi Das


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