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Women Air Views in Somalia

FILE: Nasrin Mohamed Ibrahim, the head of Bilan Media, a Somali start-up staffed entirely by women, is photographed at their headquarters in Mogadishu. 5.22.2022

A rarity in the conservative predominantly Muslim country, Bilan (meaning "beauty" in Somali) is funded by the United Nations Development Program and operates out of the offices of Dalsan, a popular television and radio station based in the capital Mogadishu.

Armed with mobile phones, tripods and laptops, the crew at Bilan Media, a Somali start-up staffed entirely by women, is on a mission to break the silence around gender violence in the troubled Horn of Africa nation.

Its team of six journalists aims to challenge patriarchal norms by producing shows that focus on women.

Their shows are aired on Dalsan and on Bilan Media's social networks, where editor-in-chief Nasrin Mohamed Ibrahim hopes to gradually build an audience.

This includes profiles of prominent Somali women and coverage of issues often considered too sensitive for public broadcast in Somalia, including subjects such as domestic violence and rape.

"About 80 percent of the programme will focus on stories which people may find shameful. Society must be informed about these stories," said Ibrahim.

"Normally you have male involvement in the production of programmes in other conventional media but for us, we write the script, do interviews, edit the videos, and present the programme," 21-year-old Ibrahim said in an interview with AFP.

The biggest challenge lies in persuading Somali citizens to share their stories

Ibrahim said having an all-female team has proved to be an unexpected advantage in this regard.

"The information I can manage to get from a mother whose daughter was raped may not be available to male journalists because that mother will trust female journalists more," she said.

"As a woman, we are the same and feel the same pain."

"Many women wish to tell their stories to seek justice," she said, recalling a case she covered in 2020 involving the alleged gang rape and murder of a young woman in a Mogadishu neighborhood.

"Her parents decided to talk about it -- I myself interviewed her father and as of today her case is in court," she said, rattling off other examples where families refused to let the stigma surrounding sexual violence stifle their voices.

"If these parents had not decided to talk about it publicly, the victims would have been buried with no justice served," said Ibrahim.

Not everyone is a fan though.

University graduate Abdullahi Adan told AFP: "Frankly speaking, I doubt the motive of this Bilan Media, all the journalists are female, and they only do programs... about women."

"They may be trying to motivate women to stand against men," he said.

But Ibrahim is unruffled.

"There is no task that comes without challenges so when you discuss (producing) programmes like this you must get ready for the challenges," she said.

"I believe that we can do whatever men can do or do it even better."