By Ila Ananya
On Sunday night, Rajeshwari Kalyanam, who works as Features editor at Hans India started a petition on Change.org. It’s a response to the restrictions women journalists in Hyderabad face when they apply to become members of the Press Club of Hyderabad. Instead, she demanded that every eligible woman journalist who applies to be a member be given membership, without any restrictions.
The Press Club of Hyderabad, it seems should really just be called an old boys club. It was started 52 years ago, but as Kalyanam points out in her petition, even though the number of women journalists might have increased substantially in all these years, out of the 1500 members in the club in total, the number of women members is less than 100.
Kalyanam started the petition after another journalist, Padma Vangapally — who just won the Laadli Media and Advertising Award for her work on the women worker’s contribution to agriculture — published a post on Facebook on 8th April. She wrote that her application for a regular membership at the Press Club of Hyderabad was rejected because she was told she wasn’t a journalist but a voice over artist, despite her 14 years of experience in journalism. She even told The News Minute that she has withdrawn her membership application, and called the club an “alcohol adda for men.”
According to the petition, a huge number of women applied for membership in 2015. At least 150 of these women were eligible, but only 70 were given membership. Following this, the new executive committee that was formed went on to further reduce the number from 70 to 21. And how many male memberships were approved? A huge 420. Essentially, women journalist with 10-25 years of experience were put in the Associate membership category for non-journalists. And as Kalyanam’s petition points out, this is the same press club that felicitated the women journalists whose membership they didn’t approve of for completing 25 years as a journalist on International Women’s Day.
We have all heard about how it’s hard to be a journalist in India, and that it can be even harder if you’re a woman. It’s true that there are a lot of threats—not only of physical attacks and intimidation, but also misogyny and harassment. While we pay attention to these, it’s also time we looked more closely at the discrimination within the media field itself.