“I support this declaration and stand by your side. I believe that if the declaration is implemented, it will encourage female journalists in Somali media houses and lead to good progress in the field”. These are the words of Hassan Mohamed Mohamud, director of the Goobjoog Media Group, one of the signatories to the Somali Media Gender Declaration.
The declaration was created and developed by the Somali Women Journalists (SWJ) association in close collaboration with IMS-Fojo as part of the Somali Media Development Programme.
“It’s a call to protect the rights of women working in the media, and a demand for them to have the same rights as their male counterparts.” said Farhiya Mohamed Kheyre, chairperson of SWJ.
The declaration focuses on issues such as sexual harassment, equal pay and career opportunities for women, with the long-term objective to transform the prevailing culture and create concrete change for women working in the Somali media sector.
It has been very well received so far, with 27 media and three media associations signing it. “The feedback has been positive. A few media houses were hesitant at first, but they signed in the end,” said Ms Kheyre.
Other media houses have reached out spontaneously to SWJ, asking them about the declaration and whether they can join the campaign. This has resulted in new visits at media houses being scheduled up till the end of December. It is likely the first time on the African continent that a gender campaign is signed by such a high number of media houses in a country.
“We chose to sign because we believe that women have the same rights as men. Those rights are not a gift from us,” said Liban Abdi Ali, director of the Somali National Television.
The declaration is part of the larger Somali Media Women for Change (SMFC) initiative, which was launched in 2017. At the initial stage, SWJ held consultative workshops across Somalia, where women journalists and media managers met to discuss key concerns and possible solutions to those. As a next step, larger stakeholder meetings were held with the aim to agree on a roadmap moving forward, and the gender declaration is a first – and now completed – milestone of that roadmap.
This work is part of a four-year programme implemented by International Media Support (IMS) and Fojo Media Institute in Somalia, with financial support from the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida).