Sexual harassment and equal pay at heart of Somali media gender campaign

A unique campaign in Somalia has resulted in 27 media houses signing a media gender declaration – a first for the country and possibly the African continent

By Kajsa Törnroth, IMS-Fojo Somalia

“I support this declaration and stand by your side. I believe that if the declaration is implemented, it will encourage female more journalists to join Somali media houses and lead to good progress in the field.” These are the words of Mr. Hassan Mohamed Mohamud, director of the Goobjoog Media Group, one of the signatories of the Somali Media Gender Declaration.

The declaration addresses 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. 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 feedback has been positive. A few media houses were hesitant at first, but they signed in the end,” she continues.

A total of 27 media and three media associations have signed up to the declaration, giving it a promising start. 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 focusing on the improvement of conditions for women in media 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.

“Gender equality has been a key strategic focus area of the IMS-Fojo programme in Somalia since its launch,” says Manja Kamwi, Programme Director for IMS-Fojo Somalia.
“Our partners have played a central role through their determination and passion for gender equality, ensuring impressive results such as this declaration. This is an important step for women journalists in Somalia whose voices in media are a precondition for ensuring balanced coverage and perspectives.”

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).