Garowe, Puntland

To Mohammed Somane Omar, journalism is a calling. This is because journalists are given the privilege to capture real moments in life, shed light and watch them illuminate and change countless lives. The call to journalism is fresh and strong in him as it is a way of life and it is worth pursuing.

The media in Puntland covers print, Radio and TV, with radio being the most popular. Internet and mobile phone coverage are excellent and provide a secondary source of information. Demand for media coverage is high but so are the risks to reporting. Although Somalia continues to be a dangerous place for journalists, there was a significant decline in work-related deaths for journalists in 2013. While 12 journalists were killed in Somalia in 2012, the number dropped to four in 2013 in direct reprisal for work, in combat-related crossfire or while carrying out a dangerous assignments.[1] This has not deterred Mohammed in anyway.

‘The situation is never static. It changes all the time and you have to be there to capture that moment as people come to you first to know what happened. For you to do this all the time, journalism has to be your passion. You have to love what you do because you risk your life and sometimes may not even see a pay cheque. It’s non-stop – once a journalist, always a journalist.’’

Mohammed Somane Omar, originally Middle Shebelle region in South Central Somalia, is one of many teachers supported by Oxfam and the European Union to teach young women and men in various fields. Through local partner KAALO and HVOYOVO, Oxfam provides free training for young men and women in office management, electrical engineering, secretarial and computer skills training as well as journalism.

‘My family is from Jowhar but we moved when the fighting escalated. It was no longer safe for us to stay there. When I was in South Central Somalia, I worked as a freelance journalist, covering developing stories and capturing the situation around  my community for Universal TV since 2005.’

‘It was difficult to do my job because of the insecurity. You didn’t know when anything would happen but if it did, you needed to be there to capture and tell the story. In addition, not everyone appreciated the work we were doing trying to capture the situation – we could be confused to be doing something else. ‘I have been a reporter.’

Now a resident of Garowe, the 27year old considers himself a journalist with a passion for teaching. He first taught journalism at Helgen School in Garowe in 2012 before relocating to the TIDES Training Centre in Garowe “OTTI” to teach the same subject in 2013.

‘I started teaching at OTTI eight months ago. I found out about the programme through a friend, who is also a teacher. The more he spoke about programme, the more i gained interest in it. I had taught before but I wanted to continue passing on the skills I had gained over the years.’

Despite the dangerous reputation that journalism has in Somalia, it is a job admired by many Somali youth. There are few opportunities to train professionally and most learn on the job.

The first day teaching was a shock to him, he says. ‘I was very excited but at the same time a little nervous. The students were truly journalists in the making. They asked me very many questions before I even sat down – what’s your name? Where are you from? How long have you been in Garowe? Why do you like journalism? And so on. Now we’re all very comfortable and learn from each other each time we have a class. They say that I am a funny teacher.’ He says, laughing.

According to Naima Adan, one of Mohammed’s students, journalism is one of the key elements involved in addressing the needs of those who are marginalised.

‘I have always wanted to have a skill that can bring positive change to people’s lives, not only in Somalia, but all over the world. Telling just one story can bring social change. Although the course is only six months long, I have learnt a lot, met many new people and have joined a network with people who think like me.  I am very hopeful that by the end of my course, I will know what steps to take going forward. I have already started writing stories and will continue to share them.’

For Rodo Maxamed, words have the power to positively promote change.

‘I have always been interested in journalism and the power of words to change a situation. Words are stronger than any physical violent actions. I still believe that journalism is the 4th power of the world. I enjoy my class and can already see improvements in my writing. I want to take many pictures and tell the world Somali stories’ she says.

‘We need to tell our story. We are Somali, we know ourselves, we know what is happening in our land and have heard the stories and legends from our parents and them from their parents. Who better to tell the Somali story than us’ says Ahmed Mahad Hersi, a journalism student in Garowe. ‘In my community, it’s necessary. The world needs to see through our eyes, be it history or current events – news or folklore. I know it’s a hard job, but it’s necessary. I am aware of how risky it can be, but I’m not scared. I’m more driven to share our story.’

This programme has so far supported more than 1,200 young men and women, through gained skills, both in specific vocational topics, as well as in a variety of useful life skills. They acquired skills that increased their access to the job market, and as such with viable alternatives to the limited, negative opportunities presently available to them.

[1] Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), 2013

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Written by Madete Stella

Stella is Programme Information Officer for Oxfam in Somalia. She is based in Nairobi

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