ERGO) – The lively voice of Abdisalam Mohamud Shire is famous among disability communities all over southern Somalia’s Lower Juba region.
Abdisalam’s weekly programme, Rajo-side (Carrier of hope), airs every Thursday on the local radio, Radio Kismayo.
Being blind himself – and the only blind journalist working in Somalia – he aims to reach out to others living with disabilities to make a positive difference in their lives.
“As a disabled person myself I wanted to represent others. I present the programme for them, and bring in those who have no voice. I tell them to speak, let the community hear you!” Abdisalam told Radio Ergo.
Now 30 years old, Abdisalam became blind at the age of three, after falling sick with measles without treatment at his home in the farming area of Jamame. His family moved to the Dadaab refugee camps in Kenya, where he went to primary school. He finished high school in Kisumu, in western Kenya.
In 2018, he decided to return home under the voluntary refugee repatriation scheme. He took his idea to the radio station.
“One of the main reasons I launched this programme is to make families aware about the educational needs of disabled children, who are usually kept at home. I also want to reduce discrimination around disability and enable people with disabilities to develop themselves,” he said.
Each 40-minute broadcast of Rajo-side covers health, education, and the challenges of discrimination in a variety of ways. It features inspirational stories about disabled people who have managed to change their lives for the better.
Abdisalam, who trained as a journalist in Nairobi, knows firsthand how discouraging life can be.
“I got no response from all the job applications I submitted to various media outlets after coming back to this country. Nobody would give me a job. This was because the media managers didn’t think I could do it,” he said.
“They didn’t turn me away directly but instinctively I knew it was clear why I was being rejected.”
Radio Kismayo director, Hassan Nur Mohamed, admits that when he offered Abdisalam the job because he liked his programme idea, he also had doubts.
“We have all changed our earlier opinions. What he has done is remarkable!” Hassan said. “The other extraordinary thing is how he uses technology. He gathers material from Facebook, YouTube and WhatsApp.”
Abdisalam uses specially adapted software on his computer. His colleague at the radio, Amal Awil, admires his skills.
“We all wonder how Abdisalam does it, he produces great programmes,” she praised.
Lives have been changed by Abdisalam’s programmes since going on air in February 2018. He has been told by listeners how his encouragement led them to set up small businesses, for example.
Shukri Said Ahmed, the chairperson of the Disability Association in Kismayo, said he is a great role model.
“Abdisalam is a good example for many disabled people. Many children have gone to school because of his encouragement. He is blind yet he was determined and succeeded in working for a radio station. Many disabled people are emulating him,” Shukri said.
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