Stage 4
16:45 - 17:15
Giving Social Media in Iran and Afghanistan a More Gender Balanced Voice

Short thesis

In countries like Iran and Afghanistan social media is another male dominated public sphere in which women’s voices are rarely heard and their opinions are side-lined. I will talk about how we can create a safe space on social media for women and young girls to interact and how these platforms can be used as a rich news-gathering resource to tap into. I will talk about how this can help us produce content which appeals to women therefore keeping them more engaged and active on social media; creating an active and positive cycle in which women have a voice. Bringing the female narrative to this newest of public spheres.


In today’s world social media platforms have become priceless news-gathering assets for journalists and news organizations. But when these platforms are male dominated there is a danger of marginalizing the female audience and muting their voices.  

On Afghan, Iranian and Uzbek social media platforms women tend be more passive. The female engagement on BBC‌ Pashto’s Facebook posts is as low as 3%. This is not because women are not present on that platform but mainly because they don’t feel safe to express their opinion and engage in debates.

In order to have a more gender equal output of news content on social media we need to be able to tap into the pool of our female audience and in order to do that we need to make women feel safe on these platforms to talk to us and talk to each other.

In my talk I‌ will look at some of the reasons why women are passive on social media platforms in Iran and Afghanistan, what challenges this can cause for us as journalists, how we can make these platforms more appealing for women and how we can then use these platforms as news-gathering resources to create more gender balanced news content.

I will look at my own personal experience and how I was able to create a safe platform for Farsi speaking women on Instagram by following a set of social media ‘Best Practices’. I will talk about how I use Instagram as my main news-gathering tool to reach out to women and how secret closed groups on Facebook are giving us an opportunity to hear from our female Afghan audience.