Safaa Barghash: UNESCO supports young voices in media

Amman, Jordan - August 21, 2017 - Safaa Barghash is an ambitious 21-year-old. While studying English Language and Literature at the University of Jordan in Aqaba city, she volunteered at the university radio station (Voice of Aqaba 93.1 FM), first as an assistant and slowly moving to news presenting, reporting, and editing.

After training and volunteering for two years in Aqaba, Safaa is now looking for work as a news presenter or reporter. Her father has always been supportive, she says, “It’s amazing to have my family. They support me even though the society doesn’t. My lovely dad especially, he supports me in everything and he believes in my voice; he believes that my voice and my reporting can change my life and the lives of those around me.”

As part of the EU funded and UNESCO Amman Office implemented “Support to Media in Jordan” (STMJO) project, Safaa was one of approximately 140 radio staff and volunteers throughout the Kingdom who participated in an extensive capacity development program, targeting seven community and local radio stations. The program was managed by Ms. Nihad Jariri, from Jordan Media Institute (JMI), who coordinated the trainings and mentored the participants over several months.

“Working with Nihad and the whole JMI and UNESCO team was incredible. We learned so much about radio presenting and reporting, how to interview people to get the most information from them, and how to carry our voice on the radio. It was so useful.”

As part of the project, radio staff and volunteers produced radio packages and stories. Safaa worked on stories about tourism in Aqaba, local employment, and draft racing. Her favourite story was interviewing the draft racing personalities around Jordan, and getting to know people around the country.

“I like that people don’t expect that someone who looks like me will be out on the street with a microphone, approaching strangers. Most of the time people are very open and willing to talk to me, so we have to keep doing this,” she says.

Safaa also reported for Radio al Balad from Aqaba, as part of another STMJO project component, which was managed by Community Media Network (CMN). She produced original reports independently from Aqaba, which were aired around the country.

“Safaa was excellent in field reporting and was able to pick up trends and ideas that most others were not able to notice. This gave her reports a uniqueness and quality that made them among the best throughout the project cycle,” her colleagues at CMN told UNESCO.

Earlier this year, Safaa also trained in the Al Jazeera Office in Amman on a scholarship, and she hopes to pursue graduate studies in journalism at JMI. In the future, Safaa would like to have her own radio show which promotes tourism in Aqaba in both English and Arabic. Her role model is star Algerian journalist Khadija Ben Ganna — of al-Jazeera television, partly because she is a rare female anchor who wears and embraces the veil. “I like her voice so much. I want it to be okay to wear the hijab on TV, and not to be judged for how I look, but rather for the reports I produce and how I perform. Just give me a chance,” she says.

When asked about the challenges she sees ahead as a young woman breaking into the media scene in Jordan, Safaa is sure about one thing. “Wasta [nepotism/who you know],” she says. “It is a big problem in our society. They don’t look for your achievements, just your connections. Even if I work hard, I need wasta. It’s very hard to break in.”

Safaa is also aware of the additional challenges being a young woman in the business. “As a woman there are many struggles. For example, traveling around the country for reporting, and going out and interviewing strangers. But I like this, and this is what I want to do, and we only live once in this life,” she states enthusiastically.

Safaa’s passion is evident as she talks about her love of radio and media in general, and the difficulties she faces as a young woman seem not to deter her from continuing the work. “I like working in radio so much. I cannot live without it. There is something in my blood! I love reading the news, and also reporting. I feel I can help people by reporting about the problems that they face. Working for the radio station really changed my life, and I saw many things that I couldn’t learn about before, that I wasn’t exposed to.”

The “Support to Media in Jordan” Project is a comprehensive three-year project aimed at supporting Jordan’s efforts in advancing the Jordanian media to further increase its freedom, independence and professionalism. The three-year project (2014 – 2017) is generously funded by the European Union and implemented by the UNESCO Amman office in close collaboration with the Ministry of State for Media Affairs and the media community in Jordan. The “Capacity building for local radios” project component has been implemented by Jordan Media Institute. In addition, the project has been working on strengthening journalism education and training, enriching media and information literacy, supporting an enabling legal environment, facilitating training on access to information for public servants, and supporting the development of media self-regulation.

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