Maryan Seylac, a Somalian journalist is one of the first female reporters from the city of Baidoa in Somalia. She is also the founder of Somali Media Women’s Association (SOMWA), an organization she founded in 2006, in a bid to encourage and support women journalists in her country, Somalia.
According to Maryan Seylac in an interview with the BBC, she has always been interested in journalism.
“From a young age, I used to listen to the BBC Somali Service with my father and discuss the stories with him – that’s how I developed an interest in politics.”
She had started out as a teacher, but found her way to radio because that was where her passion lay.
My friend’s husband worked on the local radio station and I asked if I could get some experience there in the evenings. Most of the media in Somalia is privately-owned and struggles to be balanced in its reporting, but radio, as the main source of news, is very important.
When she started out, she was the only woman in the news room, and soon the radio station offered to train her. However, her job did not come without a level of criticism from people in her society. She told BBC Africa that,
It was more difficult for my community. They looked down on me and judged my profession. It made me feel like an outcast. Culturally in Somalia, women are expected to be a wife for their husband.
She adds that even though Somalia has been stable since 2012, it is still a dangerous place to work as a journalist particularly if you are a woman. She says that the way people see women in media in Somalia is slowly changing, but she still faces a number of threats.
I have been threatened; al-Shabab have told me they will shut down my office. Women journalists are prevented from holding managerial positions.
She also talks about how she survived a bombing in September 2006. She had been reporting a live presidential speech. When the speech finished, the president and his convoy left the venue, and that was when she heard the bomb blast. According to her, it was a very big bang. She looked around and saw that people were lying on the floor all around her.
Despite all this, she is unperturbed in the pursuit of her dream and aspirations.
If I had stopped then I am sure we would not have the number of female journalists on the ground that we do right now. I wasn’t doing it for myself; I was doing it for others.
The situation is getting bettwe for female journalists in Somalia. But Maryan Seylac wants more. She wants women at managerial positions in the media. She wants media organisations to have a quota for the number of women they employ. She wants their voices to be heard.