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Building on Dreams

Journalist, government spokesperson and broadcaster, Ahdeya Ahmed has donned many hats in her 20-year media career in Bahrain. The face of Bahrain TV is also the woman behind the ambitious revamp of Channel 2.

Ahdeya Ahmed is a face well known to most television viewers across Bahrain. This journalist has juggled simultaneous roles in English language newspapers, radio and television. She has now been appointed head of Bahrain TV’s Channel 2.

Throughout this summer, the mother-of-three toured VIP kitchens across the Kingdom, getting foreign diplomats to share their family recipes with her viewers. We caught up with Ahdeya as she spent another gruelling day at her office.

Woman This Month (WTM): Bahrain TV’s Channel 2 has had a facelift recently. What can we expect in the coming months?
Ahdeya Ahmed (AA): The revamp started during Ramadan, when we aired a series of eight new programmes. Our mandate is to introduce fresh local content targeting younger viewers. We’re introducing 25 talented professionals, who are all in their twenties.

Starting October, we’re beaming six new programmes with eight new presenters. Bahrain Today is a studio-based programme, talking about the latest events in Bahrain.

Another programme on arts and culture trains the spotlight on the latest books and movies in town. A special show on expatriate life in Bahrain will be anchored by RJs and expatriates.

In addition, there are popular sit-coms such as Everybody Loves Raymond, Joey and Rules of Engagement. We’re screening a Hollywood movie every night, with varying themes. For children, there are two studio-based programmes hosted by child anchors. We’re also screening the Pink Panther cartoon series. This is just a start. I know we’re not there 100 percent, but we’re improving
every day.

WTM: What prompted you to pick journalism as a career?
AA: From a very young age, I wanted to be independent. I wanted to work and study at the same time. I embarked on a journalistic career when I was 18. Les Horton at the Gulf Daily News showed me the ropes. In fact, he taught me everything I know about writing and reporting. I have very fond memories of working with him.

WTM: Most successful women have a role model. Who was yours?
AA: I can’t say I wanted to be someone I saw on television. My role model is a good parent – my late father – who was very kind, big-hearted, loving and down-to-earth. Then, there is my mother, who raised five children so well without too much help. They were both very open-minded and supportive. They gave me all the freedom to pursue
my dreams.

WTM: What brought the transition from journalism to government spokesperson? Do you miss your journalism days?
AA: After my foray in print journalism, I began working for Bahrain Radio and TV, knowing that each form of media complemented the other. I continued to work for television, when the 2006 parliamentary elections were announced and the government was looking for a spokesperson. It was a historic election and international media was arriving in droves. I felt it would be a good opportunity to represent Bahrain as an English-speaking media person with a strong journalistic background. That being said, I certainly miss my days as a writer. Working in television is very gratifying as one is under the spotlight, but writing remains my first love.

WTM: What has been your most challenging assignment?
AA: There were a number of remarkable events that I was fortunate to broadcast and which tested my skills as a journalist. Coverage of Sheikh Isa’s demise in 1999 was challenging as it was very sudden and a shock to all of us. It must have been the only time I cried during a broadcast.
My interview with HRH Shaikha Sabeeka on International Women’s Day was memorable; it was later broadcast on CNN as well. The 2011 unrest was another demanding assignment when our abilities were tested.

WTM: What do you consider your biggest achievement so far?
AA: I’d say the benchmark of my success would be my children. Regardless of professional success, what matters most to me is having a supportive partner and an understanding family.

My husband is my best friend and has supported me in everything I’ve accomplished so far. It’s thanks to him that I managed to complete my Master’s Degree at the University of Leicester, while I was expecting. And now he wants me to enrol for a PhD!

WTM: What is your ultimate dream?
AA: On a personal level, I’d love to see my boys Ali, Ahmed and Khalid grow up into successful and happy men. I want all their dreams to come true. For myself, I’d like to complete my PhD and launch a talk show with a live audience. My ultimate professional ambition is to produce a documentary on the life of HRH the Prime Minister of Bahrain.

WTM: What does it take for women to break the glass ceiling in the region?
AA: Frankly speaking, there’s nothing to stop women from rising in their professions in Bahrain. If anything, men here know our potential and are more supportive of women than in any other country in the region.

I have never encountered any difficulty on account of being a woman. The only trouble is that women don’t support other women. In the municipal elections of 2006, one female candidate got only one vote. What does that show? Even her mother and sisters didn’t vote for her!

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