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My life as a TV presenter

Marina Zaffari is a well-known face in Afghan television. Like any other intelligent woman, Zaffari was fed up of seeing the typical ‘pretty’ presenter in a political talk show, nodding at her male colleagues and saying ‘yes’ or ‘no’ as the situation demanded.  She opted for a different track.

I am a TV presenter living in Kabul. My decision to become a presenter was not sudden, although my mother had made up my mind for me when I was just five years old. At the time, my family was living in Pakistan. I was always encouraged by my parents to take up journalism, but civil wars in Afghanistan and the lack of opportunities for Afghan immigrants in Pakistan made this difficult.

In 2001, immediately after the Taliban were thrown out of the government, it was difficult to find a female presenter for any television. Only the National Radio Television of Afghanistan had nationwide broadcasts. Female presenters mostly appeared in serious shows like the daily news. With the rise of private television channels, a change took place in Afghanistan media outlets as more young women appeared on television screens. Most of them were young girls hosting entertainment shows, which was vastly different from the previous trends on the national channel. At the time, the staff had no authority to broadcast female singers’ songs, especially where the women were not wearing headscarves.

Around the same time, my parents found me a small role as a presenter for a children’s TV show. In 2008, when I was a second year student of language and literature at the Kabul Education University, I was offered the job of presenting news shows for TOLO TV, which is biggest TV station in Afghanistan.

That was actually the beginning of my problems, because I was not a child anymore and working as a girl in television was not a simple issue for the people around us. Even my relatives began criticizing my family, asking them to stop me from working. There is a ridiculous belief about working women in Afghanistan. They can either be teachers in girls’ schools or a seamstress at home. My family had to struggle a lot to bring me to the level that I am right now.

The youth show was halted after some time and then I was offered to present a cooking show, but I refused to do this, because I felt I could do better. Finally I started to produce a show for women for the first time and then and became a presenter of the TOLO news morning show.

Recently, a big negative change has taken place in Afghan television. Many channels attempt to cover up their weakness by hiring good-looking and beautiful female presenters on the TV screens. On the one hand, this negatively projects women as presenters of ‘light’ and not so serious programs. In many cases, female presenters only verify their male colleagues by using expressions such as, “Yes, you are right“ or “definitely” and “really,” and they are advised to speak slowly as well. Women in Afghanistan normally do not host political shows and debates.

But I am happy that I chose to anchor political shows and also hosted the “Haft Aurang,” which was a series on culture and literature. I think this has helped me gain respect even among my male colleagues because I was researching and producing the entire show on my own. I consider this to be a big success.

Children usually get upset when their parents make their future decisions for for them, but I am very lucky also very happy that my mother recognized my interest in my childhood, because I feel, this is the career I really want.

Author: Marina Zaffari

Editor: Manasi Gopalakrishnan

You can watch some editions of Haft Aurang on Youtube:


08.10.2012 | 15:08