A group of women journalists have stormed the male bastion that is the Kerala Union of Working Journalists (KUWJ) this year.
The KUWJ runs the press clubs in all the fourteen districts in Kerala, except in Thiruvananthapuram. And the last few weeks have witnessed a transition that has shaken the decades old patriarchy in the male-dominated organisation.
Every year, KUWJ elections are contested with vigor. But women members of the union are usually approached only for seeking vote for their male counterparts.
This time however the scene underwent a significant and welcome change.
More number of women contested for posts in all the district committees in the elections held on Tuesday.
The result was stellar.
90% of the women candidates won in an organisation in which 80% of the members have always been men.
Every district committee has a President, a Secretary, two Vice-Presidents, a Joint Secretary, a Treasurer and an Executive Committee with five members. The Network of Women in Media too actively supported all the women contestants.
Two panels -- which oppose each other -- with candidates representing various media houses, contest the election.
The panel with the higher number of wining candidates goes on to reign the district committee for the next one year.
In the recently concluded election, the highest number of women members, i.e. five , were elected from Thiruvananthapuram.
Asha Mohan of Kerala Kaumudi was elected without opposition to the post of Joint Secretary, while TR Remya of Mathrubhumi was elected as Vice-President. Remya’s candidature was reached through consensus. Justina Thomas of Manorama News, Jisha Elizabeth of Madhyamam and Anupama G Nair of Kairali TV have been elected as Executive Committee members. Justina had the second highest majority after Suresh Vellimangalam of Deshabhimani, who has been elected to the post of district President. Justina and Suresh were also the only two contenders to have got more than 400 votes.
“It is a big thing to have won in an election where we had to put up a tough fight. Women are still reluctant to contest elections as many of them do not get the support of the media houses they represent,” Justina said.
Calling it a transitory trend, she also mentioned that her win was a result of support from both her male and female colleagues.
“Since I am a TV reporter and mostly do lives, it would have been difficult for me to visit other media houses seeking votes. Also, the majority proves that most of the men also want women to contest these election,” she stated.
The victory of Jisha Elizabeth is more noticeable as she contested independently without any panel’s support.
“My campaign was fairer, I didn’t try to ridicule the opponents. I believe people voted for me based on the stands I took. There are a group of people who believe that I can raise my voice for justice,” she said.
Jisha added that she will, among other work for the union, look into the issue of certain media houses not giving provident fund benefits to its employees.
In Kozhikode, Shida Jagath of Media One has won as Vice President. Fasna of Chandrika, Pooja Nair of Deccan Chronicle and Anushree of Madhyamam have also been elected to the district committee.
The KUWJ started out and subsequently grew at a time when women’s faces were almost nil in newsrooms. It was formed as the Thiru-Kochi Working Journalist Union in 1956.
Over the last decade though, women journalists have become an integral part of media across the world.
This year the union had also reserved at least one seat in every committee for women to ensure that they have a minimum representation in the committees.
In many districts though the representation of women is more than one. “I think that the decision for reservation is a great change. Women will make the forum more vibrant, they talk for social causes, they are more sensible in raising issues which affect everyone. Men will now be forced to have more spirited discussions,” Suresh Vellimangalam of Deshabhimani said.
Jisha Abhinaya, a journalist with Deshabhimani and also a theatre artist, won the post of Vice President of the Thrissur district Committee.
She feels that not many have been happy with her win.
“Only a minority welcomed my candidature whole heartedly. Many ridiculed me saying I was elected without opponent. My question is why was there no one to oppose? In all other sectors, women have taken a big leap forward. Why should we continue to remain people who accept the decisions of men without objection?” she asked.
In Wayanad, PO Sheeja won as Secretary. She is the first woman secreatry to be elected to a district committee.
Vineetha of Veekshanam has been elected as Secretary of Thrissur Press Club while Sumam Mohan Das of Deshabhimani has been elected to the district committee.
In Palakkad, PS Sija of Janmabhumi has been elected as Vice President.
In Ernakulam, Meera Krishnan of Kerala Kaumudi has been elected without opposition to the executive committee. N Smitha will be the new Joint Secretary and Anitha Iype the new Vice President.
In Kottayam, Saritha Krishna of Janayugam won the post of Joint Secretary.
Sabina Padman of Janagugam has been elected to the Kannur district committee.
In Kollam, PR Deepthi of Deshabhimani won the post of Vice President, while Rejitha Venugopal of Kerala Kaumudi has been elected as a district committee member.
In Alappuzha, Sreedevi Nambiar will be the new Vice President.
“The number of women who are willing to contest is still less. Hope that the trend may change from the next year,” R Kiran Babu of News 18, who has been elected as Thiruvananthapuram district secretary, said.
The result of the election for the state committee will be declared on Monday.
“The victory shows that the stand taken by NWMI in various issues related to journalism and media persons, especially in the recent past, was right. It’s indeed a huge achievement. Let more and more women assume power in such organisations. Let them raise their voice for all. It’s a victory of NWMI as well, the forum was united and our voice has now become more prominent,” said Geetha Nazeer, Deputy Coordinating Editor Janayugam and member of Network of Women in Media India.