Media advisory: Somalia's groundbreaking all-women media team approaches one-year anniversary
April 6, 2023
Somalia’s unprecedented all-women media team, Bilan, celebrates its first anniversary on 11th April. After a year of smashing taboos and shining a light on stories other media have long ignored, this relentless women’s start-up has:
- Transformed the landscape for Somali women in journalism, while dealing with challenges that range from discrimination to working with new-born children in tow
- Broken Somalia’s first major stories on a range of issues, spurring public debate and official action, including:
- Reached millions of people each month on local channels inside Somalia and been commissioned to produce content for international media including the Guardian, BBC and El Pais
- Been trained by some of the most familiar names in media, including Lyse Doucet, Rageh Omaar, Lindsey Hilsum and Mishal Husain
- HIV-positive Somalis living in fear as well as one woman who defied local hostility to welcome HIV-positive people into her house
- The abuse of female orphans, including children who are bringing up their own children
- Schools for autistic children and teachers
- An epidemic of opiate use among women in Mogadishu
- How drought hits women and families across Somalia
Inspiring journalists from Bilan are available for interview in English and Somali, including:
- Chief editor Fathi, who had to pretend to her parents she was studying IT while taking journalism courses and who faced abuse in the streets this year for going to work while pregnant
- Reporter Kiin, who grew up in a refugee camp in Kenya and now covers the kind of stories she lived herself
- Youngest team member, Shukri, who left her home in Baidoa for the first time to work at Bilan in Mogadishu.
UNDP can provide professional photos and b-roll of the team at work or facilitate media visits to the Bilan offices in Mogadishu or to capture the team reporting in the field.
For more information, contact:
Rob Few, firstname.lastname@example.org (mobile/Whatsapp +44 7947 710 860)
Ilyas Abukar, email@example.com (mobile/Whatsapp + 252 619 2888 67)
Mary Harper, firstname.lastname@example.org (mobile/Whatsapp +44 7762 146 860)
NOTES TO EDITORS
About UNDP Somalia
UNDP is the leading United Nations organization fighting to end the injustice of poverty, inequality, and climate change. Working with our broad network of experts and partners in 170 countries, we help nations to build integrated, lasting solutions for people and planet. Learn more at undp.org/somalia or follow us at @UNDPSomalia (Twitter) and @undpsom (Facebook).
Bilan is Somalia’s first all-women media team. Staffed and run entirely by women with full editorial independence, the unit covers hard news and in-depth features, holding leaders to account and making sure women’s stories and voices are heard. Bilan is funded and supported by UNDP and hosted by Dalsan Media Group at offices in Mogadishu.
Quotes from Bilan
“I am very proud to be the Chief Editor for Bilan because it provides a voice for the voiceless. The stories we have produced this year would never get attention in Somalia before, including elderly people living with HIV, drug addiction among young women, female farmers studying agriculture degrees and many more.”
- Bilan’s Chief Editor, Fathi Mohamed Ahmed
“Women journalists are more productive than men if they have the freedom to think, a safe place to work, and a platform, like Bilan, to express their ideas.”
- Bilan reporter, Kiin Hassan Fakat
“Bilan showcases the talent of Somali women journalists and disproves stereotypes. It has provided me with a safe and secure environment in which to work and shows how a group of women journalists can manage a media unit and produce successful content.”
- Bilan reporter, Hinda Abdi Mohamoud
Quotes from UNDP Somalia
(Attributable to Sophie Kemkhadze, UNDP Somalia Deputy Resident Representative)
Somalia is one of the most difficult places to be a woman and journalists are particularly vulnerable because they are in the public eye. They risk harassment and abuse on the streets, in the newsroom and even from their own families.
Over the last year, Bilan has provided a safe space where Somali women journalists can call the shots. They’ve used that power to bring new stories to light, covering issues like HIV/AIDS and gender violence, that have sparked some of the very first public debates on these subjects and transformed public attitudes to women in journalism.
Bilan has proved that when Somali women journalists are given the power to make decisions and run their own business, they can compete at the highest levels – not just in Somalia but globally. In its first year, Bilan has had articles commissioned by the Guardian, the BBC, El Pais and Missing Perspectives. This is a record that would make journalists anywhere proud, not just those from a brand-new start up media venture in Mogadishu.
UNDP, in partnership with Dalsan Media Group, has provided the training, equipment and distribution channels that have helped Bilan’s women journalists create some of the most interesting journalism being produced in Somalia today. The project has changed the way women professionals are seen by the public and brought attention to long-ignored issues ranging from HIV to gender violence and austism.
I remember reading my first Bilan stories in the Guardian and El Pais months ago and being amazed by how passionately and bravely they spoke about issues affecting not just women but a range of vulnerable people in society. I knew they would be a force for change and their achievements over the last year have shown this time and again, particularly in the strength of the public response to their stories and the way they bring these issues right to the desks and smartphones of the policy makers who can address them.
Over the next year, we will be expanding the Bilan project to bring support to more women journalists in Somalia. The women journalists of Bilan will play a key role in this by sharing their skills and experience, working on joint stories with Somali women journalists across the country, as well as through the ongoing internship programme that sees Bilan host final-year students from Somalia’s top journalism faculties.