Wednesday January 31, 2024
Despite facing discrimination and harassment, the team has remained steadfast in its mission to shed light on underreported stories, from HIV to child abuse and postnatal depression. (UNDP/File)
LONDON: Somalia is set to break new ground for female empowerment in the country with its inaugural current affairs TV show, led entirely by women.
Spearheaded by Bilan, the nation’s sole all-female media team, the program aims to tackle taboo subjects in a groundbreaking format for Somali television.
The debate show, scheduled to debut on International Women’s Day, March 8, will have a panel formed at least 50 percent by female representatives and will be hosted by a woman, Naima Said Salah.
Inspired by formats like the UK’s BBC show “Question Time,” the program will traverse the country, inviting audience engagement and tackling contentious issues such as the scarcity of female educators, women’s political struggles, and environmental crises.
Bilan, which means “bright and clear” in the Somali language, explained that the show will aim to provide a platform for discussions that have long been sidelined in a country where women’s voices have historically been marginalized.
“There are so many stories to do on Somali society, especially about Somali people, and what is going on here. We are going to have all those stories,” said Fathi Mohamed Ahmed, the chief editor of Bilan, arguing that Somalia media is “just focus on politics and conflict.”
The decision to spotlight subjects like period education follows the resounding success of a pilot episode, where Salah facilitated candid conversations on menstruation and its societal implications with a young woman in the public.
“Women, including me, never had the opportunity to learn about periods as girls; even our own mums don’t discuss it,” she said.
“People think this is taboo, but it is a fact; it exists and we cannot ignore it.”
The initiative has drawn praise from figures like Cabdulqaadir Maxamed Xasan, director of the Mogadishu schools network, who recognizes its potential to address critical gaps in community support for young girls.
Established in 2022 with support from the UN Development Programme, Bilan has been a beacon for female journalists in a male-dominated industry.
Despite facing discrimination and harassment, the team has remained steadfast in its mission to shed light on underreported stories, from HIV to child abuse and postnatal depression.
With ambitious plans for expansion and recruitment, Bilan has aimed to reshape Somali media by offering a safe space for women to share their experiences and perspectives.
“Over the last year, Bilan has provided a safe space where Somali women journalists can call the shots. (By) covering issues like HIV/AIDS and gender violence, (we) have sparked some of the very first public debates on these subjects and transformed public attitudes to women in journalism,” said UNDP Somalia’s Deputy Resident Representative Sophie Kemkhadze.
“Over the next year, we will be expanding the Bilan project to bring support to more women journalists in Somalia,” added Kemkhadze.