Wadia Samadi is thePolicy Administration Manager-ICA; Editor in Chief at Wadsam-Afghan Business News Portal. Below is an interview of her about social and digital media and empowering women in Afghanistan.
FA: Can you please briefly tell us about yourself and your background?
WS: I graduated form the International School of Kabul and received scholarship to study at the University of Richmond, where I obtained my bachelors degree in Economics and German Studies. I am currently working at the Insurance Corporation of Afghanistan and also running a website, which you are aware of.
FA: Can you please tell us about Afghan Business News Portal (Wadsam) and the philosophy behind it?
WS: Wadsam is Afghanistan's First business news portal that focuses mainly on the economic/business news from Afghanistan.Through my website, I want to show the world that Afghanistan is not all about war. We do witness economic and social developments everyday in our country. Unfortunately, there is hardly any website out there that reflects this fact. Our dark politics and violence always make the highlights of the news both in the international media and local media.
Another "philosophy" behind Wadsam is that it is relevant to my field of study. It helps me stay up-to-date with the business/economics news from Afghanistan and around the world.
FA: What are the main challenges you have faced during your work as a woman in a news agency in Afghanistan?
WS: Frankly speaking, not many people know that there is a woman behind the site. Believe it or not, people address me as Sir in their emails. The thought that it could be a woman running this site just doesn't come to them, which is not surprising, as I probably am the only woman in Afghanistan to run a website. :) I haven't attended any media related conference here in Afghanistan. I was, however, a media partner for an international conference on Afghanistan's economy in Dubai in January of this year. Wadsam is a brand new site. It will take some time to gain some popularity. I already have one full time job, so it is difficult for me to connect with the rest of the media teams in Afghanistan. About challenges...I want to say that as a woman I feel hesitant when I want to go out and meet some people with regards to my website. I always have to make sure I have a man, preferably someone from my family, to accompany me. Our men still do not have that sense of professionalism that is required to have towards a woman. In a professional meeting, you would never expect a man asking you if you are single or married, but here in Afghanistan pretty much any man I have encountered in a professional meeting asks me this. You automatically feel uncomfortable, as you start to think what this man is actually thinking about you.
FA: How did you find women's presence in social and digital media in Afghanistan, in particular in news broadcasting?
WS: I do not know any other woman involved in social and digital media. I only know a few Afghan male journalists/freelancers who send articles to Wadsam.
FA: What would you advise Afghan teenage girls who are interested in pursuing a career in the media? How can a career in film and media help them empower women in their community?
WS: I think it would be a great idea. There are not many women represented in our media, and those that are become victims of wrong perceptions. Our people's negative mindset in regard to presence of women in certain aspects of the society limit the role of women and as a result create a gender imbalance. The more professional women we recruit in our media sector, the more people will start respecting the profession and will hopefully start encouraging them as well.
FA: What is your opinion about Women's Annex initiative in Afghanistan, Central and South Asia to promote women's social presence in their community?
WS: I think it serves as a wonderful platform to allow women to express themselves, to increase the role of women in social development, and to provide them with more learning materials.