Basra Mohamed, shown in her North Linden office, airs a radio show on Saturday and Sunday nights, and publishes a newspaper, Danjir News, that also is aimed at a local Somali audience.


Basra Mohamed

Halkaan ka akhri

Basra Mohamed, shown in her North Linden office, airs a radio show on Saturday and Sunday nights, and publishes a newspaper, Danjir News, that also is aimed at a local Somali audience.

Early in her journalism career in Columbus, Basra Mohamed arrived at news conferences filled with Somali men and reached for her digital recorder, only to be snubbed.

 They walked away from her, avoided answering her questions. Sometimes, they’d ask why she was there.

Mohamed has an unusual post for a Somali woman: She runs Danjir News, a free monthly Somali-language newspaper, and Danjir Radio 89.5 FM, both in Columbus.

 In her culture, a woman’s primary responsibilities have been cooking, cleaning and taking care of her children. Mohamed, 33, is divorced with no children, and what drives her most is writing and publishing stories about Somalis in Columbus and in her homeland. She hosts a radio show on weekends about health care.

When Mohamed started the newspaper five years ago, she invited some of the elder members of the Columbus Somali community to serve on an advisory board. Many didn’t show up; others shot down her ideas repeatedly and then stopped coming to meetings.

“They didn’t believe in it. That’s part of it, and they didn’t want to work with a woman,” Mohamed said.One Somali man told her she was jeopardizing her chances of finding a husband.

But even some Somali women have tried to discourage her from running the newspaper, telling her it isn’t a woman’s job.

“Thank God … that perception is changing,” Mohamed said. “I’m optimistic about that change as long as we stay in America.”

The frustrating moments, the times when she was rejected, also fuel her. They are just more hurdles to overcome, and she has long been used to that.

 Mohamed left Mogadishu when she was 15, fleeing with neighbors and leaving behind her mother, brothers and sisters. The rebel forces were spreading. Had she stayed, she might have been killed.

She and her neighbors walked and took rides to a refugee camp in Kenya. Mohamed hoped she might meet up with her relatives there, but she never did. She stayed in Kenya for about five years before she could immigrate to the United States. To earn money, she cleaned homes near the refugee camp; even cleaning jobs were hard to find.

 From Kenya, she moved to Dallas and lived with another Somali family on the apartment floor. She worked for a refugee assistance agency and started a Somali newspaper in 1998 with grant money from the agency. But when that money was gone, the paper folded.

She moved to Columbus in 2003 to be with her close friend Abdul Giama, who is now the newspaper’s production manager.

 Soon after arriving in Columbus, she started Danjir News, one of three Somali newspapers in the city. In Somali, Danjir means looking after the interests of a community.

Mohamed hopes the articles help Somalis assimilate and adapt. Some of the stories in the paper are written in Somali; others, in English.

Danjir News has a circulation of about 5,000 and is delivered door-to-door in parts of Columbus with the highest concentrations of Somalis.

Stacks of the paper are left at libraries and some charter schools. Advertisements and donations fund the publishing of the paper, the two full-time employees and a handful of freelance writers.

 Last summer, Mohamed launched the radio show, which airs on Saturday and Sunday nights.

Mohamed is learning her way around rejection. Sometimes a Somali man will disregard her idea for a story but then later present essentially the same idea. Instead of pointing out that it was her idea in the first place, she tells him it’s a great idea.

 “Sometimes they do take my suggestions,” she said. “Most of the time, they want me to take theirs.”

Giama reminds her not to dwell on others’ efforts to undermine her.

 Sometimes he jokes with Mohamed that she should give it up, stay at home and raise kids.

“She doesn’t care what we tell her. She’s committed to showing that she can do what other men can do,” he said.

Adbislam Aato, publisher of Bartmaha, another Somali-language newspaper in Columbus, said he’s encouraged to see a woman at the helm of one of the area’s newspapers.

“In our culture, a lot of things that we never did are happening now,” Aato said. “Now we are in America.”

Source: Columbus Dispatch, Dec 20, 2007

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