Women across the world are breaking glass ceilings. This Women’s Day, we bring you five such women of India and the Middle East who have made contribution in changing the face of broadcast industry.
1. Homai Vyarawalla – India’s First Woman Photojournalist
Born in Gujarat, India in 1913, Homai Vyarawalla (popularly known as ‘Dalda 13’) was India’s first female photojournalist. She started her career in the 1930s and was noticed nationally when she moved to Mumbai in 1942. Over the next 30 years, Vyarawalla worked as a press photographer, capturing the last days of the British Empire and many national leaders, including Gandhi, Nehru, Jinnah, and Indira Gandhi.
Vyarawalla was one of the key visual chroniclers of the post-independence era, tracing the euphoria and disillusionments of a new nation. During World War II, she worked with The Illustrated Weekly of India magazine, which published many of her iconic black and white images. Vyarawalla was awarded Padma Vibhushan in 2011, which is the second highest civilian award of the Republic of India.
2. R. Vijayalakshmi – Asia’s First Woman Cinematographer
Daughter of the legendary actor, director, and producer B.R. Panthulu. B.R. Vijayalakshmi, who started her career as an assistant to cinematographer Ashok Kumar, is Asia’s first woman cinematographer. She made her feature film debut with the Tamil film ‘Chinna Veeduin’ in 1985.
After working in over 22 films, Vijayalakshmi took a break from the cinema after the birth of her son, only to return as a known face in television. “Paatu Padavaa” – the last film scripted, directed and cinematographed by Vijayalakshmi in 1995 made it to the International Film Festival of India 1996.
3. Hessa Al Ossaily – Mother of UAE Media
Hessa Al Ossaily, born in Sharjah in 1950, is the first TV announcer of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and has donned many hats as a female pioneer in the broadcasting industry. She was Director of the Ministry of Information and Culture’s Exhibition Department for more than 30 years and is now one of the UAE’s most successful businesswomen.
In 1965, at the age of 15, Al Ossaily became the first Emirati woman to become a presenter at Sawt Al Sahil Radio, which was launched in Sharjah by the British. In 1969, after graduating from Ain Shams University in Egypt, she joined Kuwaiti TV as a presenter.
Known as the Mother of UAE Media, Al Ossaily was assigned general commissioner for the UAE’s involvement in expos in 1992. In 2000, she became the first Arab female member of the country’s steering committee for that year’s expo in Hanover, Germany.
4. Nayla Al Khaja – UAE’s First Woman Filmmaker
Dubbed UAE’s first female filmmaker, Nayla Al Khaja graduated from Dubai Women’s College with a degree in Mass Communication in 1999 and hosted her travel show with Arabian Radio Network. In 2005, she graduated in Image Studies – Film from Ryerson University in Canada, a college well-known for its film-making programs.
Soon after graduation, Nayla founded a full-service production company ‘D-SEVEN Motion Pictures,’ which specialized in the production corporate videos, documentaries, short films, and TV commercials. The production house had an impressive list of clientele, which includes industry giants like Vogue, BMW, Gucci, Mercedes, Nike, Cannon, Nivea, LG, and Discovery Studios to name a few.
In 2006, Nayla made her first short film “Arabana”- which dealt with the subject of child abuse. The film premiered at the Dubai International Film Festival in 2007 where she won the title for ‘Best Emirati Filmmaker.’
5. Alia Al Shamsi – UAE’s First Professional Female Photographer
Born and raised in Dubai from an Italian mother and a UAE father, Alia Al Shamshi studied photography, and photojournalism in Australia and is a full-time photojournalist for El Emarat El Youm and Emirates – two newspapers of Dubai. She is also working as curator, photographer, and archivist on many independent projects and has been involved with food and fashion photography. Her photographs featured in international magazines like National Geographic and are exhibited in many countries, including USA, Australia, Germany, Italy, and UAE.
We wish more power to women of today! Happy International Women’s Day!