Women conquer Somali journalism

Journalism is traditionally a male stronghold in Somalia. Our partner Media INK succeeded in cracking this with targeted training and an unorthodox approach. Much to the satisfaction of female journalists and their male chief editors.

If women are working at a media company in Somalia, they are expected to concentrate only on entertainment. Certainly not politics and economics, never mind the position and rights of Somali women. Often, the employment conditions for female journalists are downright bad. There are no Ladies’ toilets, maternity leave does not exist, and women are paid less than their male colleagues.

Positive discrimination

Our partners Media INK and Media Association of Puntland (MAP) want to professionalise Somalian journalism and strive for more equality between men and women. In Somalia, there is less worthwhile training available to women than to men. For that reason, Media INK introduced a simple but effective rule: if journalists want to follow a training course, at least one female colleague must participate. But how do you actually get women to those trainings?

Media INK’s first step was to talk to the editors. However, once they were convinced, a new obstacle presented itself: the families and partners of the women. They did not always see the importance of women in the media and were concerned for the safety of their daughters and wives. The employees of Media INK decided to take an unorthodox approach. They telephoned or made home visits to the family, did their best to convince them and arranged separate accommodation for the women during training. In many cases they got their way: ultimately, the female journalists were allowed to participate.

And it works!

It looks like Media INK’s approach works! Chief editors now take the initiative themselves, employee more women and send them to the training sessions. When they began in 2012, only a handful of women attended the trainings, but by September 2017, 35% of the participants were women. And in the same year, 9 female journalists from 8 radio stations were promoted to a leading position on their editorial team. Also, 13 of the 33 Somali radio stations included maternity leave in their personnel policy.

Fatima Yusuf Said, programme maker and camera woman at WAABERI TV: ‘It wasn’t long before my boss asked me to train colleagues too. We now make more appealing programmes, which means we are better able to convey important information. I gained more confidence and now supplement my meagre salary with assignments from other organisations.’

Media INK took the first step, but it is the female journalists themselves who convince their environment of their knowledge and expertise. It is their voices on the radio and their faces on TV, which can play an important role in encouraging the public debate on a more equal Somali society.

Partner since: 2011
Donor: Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs & Dutch Embassy in Somalia
Contribution: € 237,700

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