By Sonya Rehman
“I was completely directionless,” Rabia Mehmood, a Pakistani journalist says reminiscing about her undergraduate college days. “At the most, I thought I’d end up teaching English Literature somewhere.”
But much has changed since then.
What followed was a Masters in Mass Communication from a college in Lahore and then, a stimulating career as a broadcast journalist with Express 24/7, an English Pakistani TV channel after grad school in 2007.
“Since I come from a simple Punjabi family, pursuing a Masters in Mass Communication was unheard of in my family,” she says.
Having reported on significant socio-political events in the country, such as the state of emergency (declared by ex-President Musharraf in 2007), the lawyer’s movement for the restoration of the judiciary in Pakistan (in 2009), bomb blasts, etc, Mehmood stands as a role model for many young Pakistani women hoping to make a name for themselves in the field of broadcast journalism in the country.
At Express, Mehmood was offered to be an anchor for the organization’s Urdu channel but she turned the offer down. “I wanted to learn the craft first,” she says, “I wanted to learn production.”
Currently, Mehmood is the sixth recipient of the IWMF’s Elizabeth Neuffer Fellowship which is awarded to one female journalist every year to be a research associate at MIT’s Center for International Studies in Boston for a period of nine months.
“My interest was towards social change,” Mehmood says, “I know that’s a very academic term, but I’ve always been inclined towards that.”
When she joined Express, Mehmood put in long hours at work; she “was the first one to reach office and the last one to leave.” She says while laughing; “I didn’t want anyone to make excuses for me on behalf of my gender that I couldn’t work late because I was a ‘girl’. No way was that going to happen!”
Given Pakistan’s volatile security situation over the last few years, Mehmood has been reporting at the frontline of significant political events. And for a young Pakistani woman, that isn’t an easy feat. “I’ve seen so much just because of reporting,” she says, “It really has been one of the most learning experiences for me as a journalist.”