In April, the Somali Women Journalists Organisation (SWJO) protested against an advert that contained criteria regarded as insult and discrimination against Somali female journalists seeking employment in the state media.
“We were astonished that Somali National Television (SNTV) put age limit, height, body weight and appearance as requirements for female journalists applying for the positions while there are no similar conditions for men,” says Farhia Mohamed Khayre, Chairperson of SWJO.
“The advert also violated articles 5 and 9 of the Somali civil servant act which stipulates that anyone with a university degree, male or female, can compete for any advertised vacant position.”
“The third and fourth requirements of the advert by the ministry of information had tongues wagging as it contained derogatory, discriminatory and obnoxious terms.”
“The law does not allow physical characteristics like weight, height, and beauty to be used as a requirement during advertisement as this violates the equal job opportunities as stated by articles 3, 11(3) and 118 (5) of the Somalia labour law of 1972.”
What happened as a result?
“SWJO has rejected this discriminatory act by the ministry through a press release issued immediately after the ministry posted the vacancy.
Public outcry followed the advert which was posted on the Facebook page of the ministry. The advert made rounds in social media as people outraged by the offensive letter criticized the ministry,” Farhia Mohamed Khayre continues.
“Hours later, the ministry pulled down the advert and made some slight corrections which were not sufficient and commensurate to the error made and the violation against the rights of women, but was seen as a means to appease the pressure by the public,” Farhia Mohamed Khayre explains.
On April 13, 2020, the ministry dismissed the editor of SNTV, Feisal Muse after he allegedly admitted publicising the recent discriminatory job advert by the Ministry of Information. The ministry has since cancelled the advertisement of the position.
But the editor Feisal Muse denied having a role, saying that the responsibility rests on the shoulders of the SNTV director.
He added that the editor has no mandate to recruit employees. Feisal also underlined that he sent his resignation one hour before the said dismissal of the editor.
What does the ad say about the prevailing mentalities in Somalia?
“It shows how the male-dominated sector is now waking up to the need of gender parity and equal job opportunities. From the public outcry that followed, it is evident that the community, especially the educated, do not welcome any sort of discrimination” says Farhia Mohamed Khayre.
What do you think is the best way to change those mentalities?
“SWJO has already conducted a number of sexual harassment trainings for female journalists but this seems not enough, this time round, similar training should be conducted for editors and media managers that addresses the sexual harassment and vulgarity associated with abuses of power.”
“Also, SWJO looks forward to partnering with the media houses in the capital Mogadishu and the region through debates and roundtable discussions on sexual harassment and violence against women in media.”
“Many people, including media managers, cannot really differentiate what is violation and what is not. This now calls for a concerted campaign to change this behaviour in the sector.”