With the support of micro grants provided by the Somali Women’s Studies Centre in partnership with Saferworld, journalists Maryan and Abshiro have used storytelling and advocacy initiatives to improve women’s safety.
Maryan Jamac Dhonbe and Abshiro Abdirashid Husein are journalists who work on women’s rights in Somalia. They have both faced challenges in their efforts to support women journalists and address the hurdles they face – which include gender-based discrimination, threats to personal safety, limited access to resources, entrenched patriarchal norms, and an absence of representation and role models.
More than just creating space
Maryan's goal was to challenge stereotypes, raise awareness of women's rights, and provide a platform for women's voices. Through workshops and training sessions, she created spaces where women could openly share their experiences and discuss the challenges they face in Somali society. Smaller organisations across Somalia – including women's rights organisations – often struggle to access the sorts of funding available to larger, more established bodies, severely hampering their work promoting women's safety and rights. For these organisations, micro grants – comparatively small sums, given for short-term projects – can be a lifeline, enabling women’s rights organisations to create space for women's voices, address gender-based discrimination, and advocate for a safer environment for women, creating positive changes in Somali society. Maryan explains: "The micro grant allowed us to conduct training sessions and workshops where women could express their experiences and challenges without fear."
The grant helped Maryan to acquire resources – such as high-quality cameras and audio equipment – so she could feature the voices of the women in articles and interviews. Maryan shares: "The micro grant supported me to discuss the challenges and achievements of women, shedding light on their stories and ensuring they are heard."
Abshiro focused on the challenges faced by women journalists in Somalia. Through storytelling workshops and interviews, she aimed to raise awareness and advocate for a safer environment for women in journalism. She explains, "We organised trainings to address the problems faced by journalists. We used articles and interviews to amplify the voices of women and bring attention to the issues they face." The skill-building workshops and seminars organised by Abshiro helped to enhance the technical skills of women journalists, foster their critical thinking and promote ethnical journalism practices. The women were able to tell their stories though photography, video and writing initiatives – visual documentation that served as evidence of the risks and threats they face.
Collaborative efforts with police and authorities
Like Maryan, Abshiro used the grant to buy essential equipment that enabled the women journalists to share their stories with a wider audience and highlight the risks they face. The coverage has compelled local authorities to act. The police gender desk in Jubaland established a dedicated hotline and reporting channels for women journalists to report threats, harassment or violence. Abshiro helped to establish these better response mechanisms, which have made women journalists feel safer while covering risky events thanks to quicker responses and investigations into reported cases.
Abshiro says, "Our stories created a platform for dialogue and challenged societal norms. We received positive reactions from individuals and broader audiences."
Both Maryan and Abshiro encountered obstacles along their journeys, including limited access to resources and platforms to publish their work. They persevered by using social media, collaborating with women’s rights organisations, and building networks of support both within the journalism and women’s rights communities. They established the Jubaland Women Journalists association, a coalition of organisations that supports women working in Somali media and advocates for women’s rights and inclusion in decision-making.
By addressing security concerns and documenting their experiences, Maryan, Abshiro and their fellow journalists paved the way for improved safety measures and heightened awareness of the importance of protecting women in journalism. Zahra, a journalist from Kismayo, recalled: “A journalist from Mogadishu documented instances of harassment and threats she faced while reporting on sensitive issues. By sharing visual evidence with the local police, they were compelled to take the matter seriously, launching an investigation, providing enhanced security measures, and increasing their overall support for women journalists operating in challenging environments. This demonstrates the power of visual documentation in holding authorities accountable and driving positive changes in their approach to addressing security issues.”
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