The significance of 25 years of IWPC goes beyond the creation of a body of professional media women, which provides a home to women journalists away from home, a workplace away from workplace, a watering hole and a safe environment from where they can function during the day.
They can read in the library, work on their laptops or on computers provided in the workroom. They have a place where they can connect with colleagues and “sources” and potential sources in a congenial environment, while keeping an eye on the latest breaking news on television. Or they can sit out in the well maintained garden at 5 Windsor Place, talking to friends or newsmakers, in the winter months soaking in the bright sunshine of Delhi, which is a rare luxury in the middle of those pressured hours as they move from one appointment/ assignment to the next.
When a group of us discussed the setting up of the Indian Women’s Press Corps a quarter century ago, one of our concerns was to be able to function in an environment, very different from one where PR men surrounded media persons in other clubs.
Over the years the IWPC has grown to be a professional body and not just a club. Newsmakers want to come and interact with women journalists and we have had figures right from the Prime Minister to chief ministers to environmentalists, economists, foreign policy experts, or child rights activists come and speak on a host of issues– and answer questions.
Putting probing questions to rulers and policy-makers was taken for granted in the years gone by. But today this is becoming more and more infrequent. Conversations have become so one sided and politicians have their say via tweets Facebook blogs or Instagram without subjecting themselves to scrutiny. That is why many look forward to these exchanges at the IWPC.
The IWPC has also taken a stand on vital issues facing the media, be it to raise its voice against paid or fake news or condemn the growing attacks on journalists, or oppose the dilution of the very principles of media freedom, which underpin our democratic republic. It has taken a position on some of these issues along with other media organisations.
IWPC has also given voice to the rights of women, and the violence against them, through the writings and programmes by individual journalists or as a collective of media women. (Perhaps it was due to the growing influence that women in the media are coming to acquire that the IWPC was, for instance, invited in 2009 to be a member of the National Integration Council.)
Elections are held to the IWPC every year to select the president and office bearers and a managing committee to oversee the functioning of the organisation, and often these are not without contention. But, despite pressures of a highly competitive profession and all the other responsibilities that a woman professional is called to fulfil, every elected team has given its time and effort freely to look after the sorority.
The IWPC is womened by mediapersons , with differing ideological persuasions. The two WhatsApp groups reflect this diversity. Differences are voiced with vigour in the vibrant debates that take place on this platform daily—and hourly—on a host of current issues. But there are many hands which reach out to hold and support any member when she is in need. Members stand with each other in times of bereavement and partake in each other’s achievement. It is this which makes the IWPC quite unique.