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Published in the 1-15 Mar 2004 print edition of MG; send me the print edition

Purdah not a barrier for women to venture into media: Zeenat Shakir

Media is one of the powerful weapons in today’s info-tech world. It sets agenda, makes policies, moulds public opinion and propagates. 
Gone are the days when a media man used to carry a plastic bag and a fountain pen, with no or little money in pocket, to report the day's events. Today, media is a dignified profession. The 24-year-old Zeenat Shakir Shaikh would explain it better. She is a lecturer at Mumbai's Wilson College. She teaches press laws and ethics to bachelors of mass media while pursuing her own master’s course in journalism.

Zeenat Shakir with younger sisiter

As is the wont of most Muslim parents, they do not want their daughters to go in for service. If at all, they want just teaching or a medical job so that their daughters do not have to go away from home.

Zeenat wanted to be a doctor but she did not get good marks in SSC and in the PMT examinations. However she tried her luck in Pune where she got a seat but her parents refused her to go to Pune. Yet she gives credit of her success to her parents.

She gave up the idea of making a career in science and thought of doing graduation in arts or any other stream before trying her luck. In the meantime, Wilson College introduced a three-year graduation course in mass media and she went for it. Impressed by media since her childhood, she fancied to work with a TV channel or get her bylines published in newspapers. She completed the three-year mass media course, but her dream was still a far cry as her parents did not allow her to do these jobs. She expressed her helplessness when asked for doing a job by her college lecturer.

However, the turning point in her life came when she got an offer for a lectureship job in the same college. During her three years mass media course she had proved her abilities. She took up the offer and also took admission in MA in journalism to continue her life's ambition. 

Zeenat, the lecturer and Zeenat, the student is now a busy person. I want to prove myself, she says and give a message to the youth. Whether you get a job or not, you should acquire education, she says. 

The problem with us, Zeenat says, is that "the boys of our business families do not want to pursue higher education", while education brings a change in our thinking and it opens new vistas for us. 

Your education pays when you get married, she philosophises. The problem compounds after marriage when the boy is less educated than the girl.

She asks youth and especially girls to seek a career in journalism as it provides a chance to explain correct ideas and remove misunderstandings from the minds of non-Muslims. Girls should acquire education and do job only after getting permission from their parents as happiness cannot be bought at the cost of parents’ displeasure.

Women can work while wearing purdah and within social limits, she says and adds that girls in Muslim countries are a witness to it. 

— Manzar Imam

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