Inspirational Woman Interview: Farah Mohammed

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Farah Mohammed is a journalist whose work and writing have been featured in platforms including The Huffington PostThe Guardian, The International Journalists’ Network, and Women’s Media Centre, Mic.com, and referenced by Quartz and The Washington PostShe writes  about international affairs, health, social justice, travel and culture. Formerly an intern at the United Nations Development Program and a graduate fellow at the Knight Lab at Northwestern University, Farah currently works as a Community Manager at HackPack.press, a global network that emphasizes independent journalism and international coverage. Farah also writes articles regularly for Girls’ Globe, an online blog and platform that raises awareness of women’s issues across the world. As part of her work with Girls’ Globe, Farah covered the UN General Assembly in 2015 and Women Deliver Conference in 2016.

What is your background?
Farah Mohammed: I’m a journalist originally from Jamaica, right now Lead of The Americas at a startup. We’re working to help journalists in developing countries connect to major outlets and diversify the voices we’re hearing in the media. My background is pretty patchwork, haha, I’ve lived all over, done different things. Hard to sum up very quickly. (And dull after a while).

You are a Blogger at Girls’ Globe, an educational platform that raises awareness of the rights, health, and empowerment of women internationally. Can you share some of your experiences on Girls’ Globe?

Farah Mohammed: Girls’ Globe gave me my start! I joined in its earlier days, and even back then it was inspiring. I was stuck at home, it was hard to get a job, nobody wanted to listen to stories coming from Jamaica, and few wanted to read about the struggles women and girls were undergoing. Girls’ Globe was an amazing outlet – on a functional level, it provided a platform for me to get stories published, which was invaluable. But even more than that, getting feedback from the other amazing women around, hearing from other girls like me, getting actual experience in the editorial sphere and just being around their infectious energy…I can say with a fair degree of confidence that I wouldn’t be where I am today if I hadn’t been a blogger for GG.

Why are journalism and blogging important to you?

Farah Mohammed: I know it’s unfashionable to believe in the power of journalism now, but I do. I think storytelling is woven into our DNA – it’s the way we make sense of the world and other people. Blogging is a way of democratizing storytelling on a massive scale, and I definitely think it empowers people. Women most of all, many of whom aren’t given many channels for a voice.

Journalism – well. It’d take a very long time to explain why I put up with everything I do for the sake of journalism, haha. Suffice it to say, I think it still has a lot of power and potential to do good, and it is an immense privilege to be able to help tell people’s stories.

From your experiences, what are some of the main structural challenges that face women in journalism?

Farah Mohammed: Primarily, the same as any – there’s not a big financial backing for it. But more than that, it’s harder to break into the journalism industry, harder to practice (sexism is waning, but it’s still there) as well as balance family and work life. Journalism is an unforgiving profession, it demands a lot of you. It’d be very difficult to balance being a reporter with the role of women as we still see it, in many ways.

What, in your opinion, are the biggest problems with the media’s reporting of women’s issues?

Farah Mohammed: It depends on what media you’re talking about. Some do a great job. Some tend to beat the same stories to death and make it feel hopeless. Some sensationalize violence. It’s the same as with the trouble in covering any topic in media. I do think, overall, there’s more discourse about the problems women and girls face, on all levels, and I’m encouraged by that.

On a personal level, why is women’s empowerment important to you?

Farah Mohammed: 
I grew up with very conflicting attitudes towards a woman’s place in the world, and it took a while for me to realize I didn’t have to spend my life apologizing for my existence, and that it was okay to put my talents to good use.

I see a lot of women who could use that. It’s very painful to watch capable women undersell themselves, or accept poor treatment because they haven’t been taught their own value, or don’t believe in themselves. On a global scale, it’s morally right as well as making economic sense. Women’s empowerment is not only important to me as an individual, but as a citizen of the world. It seems what we should be doing to move forward, on personal, national and international levels.

What do you see in the future of the intersections between journalism and international development? What social issues do you think should receive more international exposure?

Farah Mohammed: Journalism and international development are pretty tightly intertwined as is. Development journalism – reporters working specifically in the field of international development – is a tough field, but with some very intrepid and intelligent workers doing their best to shine a light on the various issues and initiatives worldwide.

As for what issues should receive more attention, yikes. There’s so much going on and so much competing for attention, so much of it important. I guess, right now, overall, I’d say women’s mental health isn’t getting the attention it may warrant. After crises, in poverty, following sexual violence, in refugee camps; not saying men don’t suffer tremendously as well, but women do carry a huge brunt of the burden when it comes to families and when it comes to shame. It can take a toll on a person psychologically, and just because wounds aren’t visible, doesn’t mean they’re not deep.

Can you talk about one woman who has impacted your life?

Farah Mohammed: Oh gosh, so many. It’d be unfair to any of the women in my personal life to select one and leave the others out, so I’m going to go with famous figures. Sorry if that’s a cop-out. Cleopatra. She was cool. She was my first indicator that women can be just as influential as men.

What advice do you have for women interested in journalism?

Farah Mohammed: It is a tough field. Be prepared to forgo a lot of traditional ideas. You may have to be pushier than you’ve been raised to be. You may have to put off being in a committed relationship during the early years, when your friends are partnering up and getting married. You will probably encounter a fair degree of sexism. That being said, if you’re interested in journalism for the right reasons – you love stories and people and you wouldn’t feel satisfied doing anything else – it’s totally worth it. Nothing good comes easy.

What are your favorite books, websites, films, and resources related to women’s issues, development, and policy?

Farah Mohammed: I don’t subscribe too much to the idea of women’s media as opposed to any other form of media. I do think there’s a place for creative works aimed at and about women, but at the same time, when I think of women’s media, I think of anything that made me consider a woman’s place in society, or made me feel capable despite the challenges we face. So, I’d go with Pan’s Labyrinth, Reading Lolita in Tehran, Y Tu Mamá También, or The Paris Wife. Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson is good if you’re younger. Missoula is good if you have a strong stomach.

More than anything, I’d encourage women and girls to read and listen to and think about women and girls outside their own circles. We can get caught up in our own circles and our own problems, and funnel ourselves into a very narrow view of what ‘women’s rights’ are.

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