Gender representation and gender based violence in the field of journalism has been a topic of discussion globally, and Somalia is no exception with a predominantly male dominated industry. The media landscape in the country has its own unique challenges, including limited resources, self-censorship, and an ongoing conflict. But although the challenges are many changes are being made.
The Somali Women Journalists Organisation (SWJO) was established in 2013 with the aim to create a network of women supporting women. It is a countrywide organisation that promotes gender equality in the media with a focus on advocacy and capacity building of female journalists.
“Gender-Based Violence is everywhere; all sectors are suffering from it, but media is the worst because women in media are few. To be a female journalist in Somalia is ten times as difficult as being in any other profession. It is where women are abused the most and lack any sort of protection”, says Najma Ahmed, Chief of Training and Advocacy at Somalia Women Journalists Organisation (SWJO).
Women working in the field of journalism face various forms of violence, ranging from physical attacks to sexual harassment and verbal abuse. They often encounter barriers to equal treatment and career progression. These acts of violence create an environment of fear and exclusion, limiting women’s opportunities to gain visibility and contribute to the media industry.
”Victims seldom see justice being done instead the problems are addressed at a communal level so women never really get justice at the end of the day. The blame is often put on the woman, the victim, and the few who go to court receive threats. You can’t even report it on Television without putting your life in danger. Even women themselves say that if something bad happens to you, you shouldn’t advertise it.”
A step in the right direction has been the Gender Declaration which was launched in 2018 and has had a profound impact on the media sector in Somalia. It started with a series of roundtable discussions that for the first time in Somali history brought together female journalists and media executives to discuss the challenges for female media professionals. To date, at least 47 media houses have adopted some provisions of the Declaration. Signatories to the Declaration commit to 19 concrete and actionable guiding principles to improve the working conditions for female journalists.
”We really fought for it to exist and to be signed by all media houses in the country. The aim is to protect the rights of all female journalists. We also organise training on sensitivity reports and gender-balanced content creation and fight for equal pay advocating for maternity leave and making workplaces more comfortable for women. Apart from that we also influence media organisations to put women in the leadership position. We reached a remarkable milestone, but we have other miles to go as well.”
Fojo´s progrmamme manager and security advisor, Carl-Magnus Höglund says “even though there are still huge challenges for female journalists in Somalia, many female journalists say now they have more confidence and are treated with more respect. Media Women Network’s (MWN) and SWJO’s groundbreaking work with the Gender Declaration brought remarkable changes across the media sector in Somalia.