In a nondescript white building along the bustling Makka al Mukarramah Road, a group of women intently focus on their computer screens, playing and replaying sound pieces. Somali music plays softly through the speakers as the presenter fits on her headset and starts the show. Welcome to Aman Radio, the first all-female run radio station in Mogadishu.
Incessant conflict has put Somalia’s women as one of the most disadvantaged in the world. In Mogadishu’s internally displaced camps, rape is rife and domestic violence is rampant in most areas. Despite condemnation of acts of violence against women and efforts to curb their marginalization by aid agencies and civil society, one voice has been conspicuously absent; the voice of the Somali women. This is what Aman Radio seeks to fill.
“I chose journalism because I want to amplify the voices of my society and especially those of Somali women. I want to speak for the disadvantaged and those whose voices never receive attention, “ explains Anisa Abdullahi, an editor at the station. “
I chose Aman because it’s dedicated to social issues. We rarely discuss politics. We focus on the community, women, healthcare, education and the rebuilding of the country. So in some little way, I want to help my society by highlighting their needs and celebrating their accomplishments,” she adds.
It’s not easy being a journalist or running a media outlet in Somalia. The country still ranks as one of the most dangerous for journalists to work in. Last year, up to 19 journalists were killed while dozens have been targeted for their work. This year is far better than last year, but even then there’s other constant worries. Frequent power cuts and transmission problems form the bulk of challenges for the station’s producer, Aliyo Mohamed Osman.
“There are challenges. Sometimes a show is about to start and the computer hangs or the power goes out in the middle of a live show. There are a lot of challenges,” says Aliyo.
The station’s manager Farhiyo Farah Roble is unfazed by the challenges. After all, the journey to the realization of the group’s dream was littered with challenges. “When you start working on something, there is bound to be a challenge. It’s happened to us too. When we used to work on this, people would ask why are you doing these because girls usually don’t do it. So when some proposed that they would come up with an all-female run radio station, it was dismissed as an impossible thing, like rewinding time and going back to tomorrow,” she explains. “People saw it as an impossible and unrealistic mission but we have overcome that.”
On a typical day, the station’s programming varies from debates, call-in shows, music request hours and even cooking shows. Since it hit their airwaves, the station has received favorable response. Buoyed by the discovery of this niche’s potential, a new all-female station has just joined the market and hopes to strike a cord with Somalia’s women. While two decades of war might have stunted progress in Somalia, the impressive proliferation of media outlets continues to challenge that foregone conclusion. There are at least 28 radio stations in the capital Mogadishu alone. As fingers click away and the next show’s playlist comes to life, Aman Radio hopes to rewrite the conclusion that it’s all-hopeless for Somali women.