by Higerta Gjergji

Bilan Media is preparing to launch Somalia’s first women-led current affairs programme, hosted by Naima Said Salah. The show will be set up as a debate, inviting public participation and tackling complex taboo topics related to women’s issues, such as the lack of women in teaching and political roles. The panels will be made up of at least 50% women.

A pilot project on menstrual education in schools was launched in December 2023. Naima Said Salah says she is proud to have brought the issue into public debate, explaining: “Women, including myself, never had the opportunity to learn about menstruation as girls; even our mothers don’t talk about it. People think it’s a taboo, but it’s a fact; it exists and we can’t ignore it.” The show will now become a monthly fixture and will be launched on International Wom’n’s Day, March 8th.

Bilan Media is Somalia’s first all-female media team, founded in 2022. It empowers female journalists to choose the news and how to tell it. The organisation shines a light on stories ignored by the rest of Somalia’s male-dominated media sector, such as domestic violence, pay inequality, HIV/AIDS, albinism, autism and menstrual hygiene education.

Bilan publishes stories for TV, radio, and online media, and is also active on social media platforms. They work with The Guardian, BBC, El Pais, Toronto Star, and other international media outlets. In addition, Bilan Media runs an internship programme for female journalism students, offering them the opportunity to work with Bilan for six months. This gives them practical experience and continuous training from the journalists.

The aim is to pave the way for more female reporters by overturning entrenched stereotypes and demonstrating that Somali women journalists can compete at the highest levels of journalism. According to Nasrin Mohamed Ahmed, former editor-in-chief of Bilan, “Being a journalist in Somalia means being prepared to make the ultimate sacrifice. Women journalists don’t just face the same shells and tough living conditions as all others, but there are other issues specific to being a woman in the media.”

Fathi Mohamed Ahmed, the current editor-in-chief, recounts the adversities women journalists face, from families accusing them of bringing shame on their lives, to threats from government officials and Islamic groups, to being shouted at in public when they go to work. Despite these challenges, the journalists have big plans. They want to build strong networks of female journalists across the country and go global, creating a media house for women in other parts of the world.

Bilan’s six journalists come from all over Somalia and bring a wealth of media experience. They are: Hinda Abdi Mohamoud, deputy editor; Farhio Mohamed Hussein, reporter; Kiin Hasan Fakat, reporter; Naima Said Salah, reporter; Shukri Mohamed Abdi, reporter. The team is hosted by the Dalsan Media Group at its headquarters in the capital, Mogadishu. Funded by the European Union through the Somali Woman Media Project and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), Bilan Media remains independent with full editorial control. 

On the cover photo, Bilan Media journalist (photo from Bilan Media’s social network X profile)