Araweelo Abroad Is a Safe Space for Somali Women to Open Up

Words by Demie Tuzara

“Soo Dhawoow!” The phrase is translated to “Welcome!” deriving from the native Somali tongue and the greeting displayed on the homepage of Araweelo Abroad. It is seemingly mundane – a word of kind greeting, a polite phrase to greet the arrival of their readers. But as we delve further into the online community that is Araweelo Abroad, the greeting translates into more than just a “welcome” but something much more wholesome and familiar to the community it’s created for.

Established in 2014 and founded by Ifrah Ahmed and Sagal Abdulle, Araweelo Abroad is “a cyber homecoming for the baati babes and nomadic camel queens currently living outside the motherland”.

Ifrah titled the online magazine after the ancient Somali Queen Araweelo; defier of gender roles and advocator of women’s liberation. A well-known figure in Somali folklore, Queen Araweelo is the epitome of female empowerment in the eyes of many Somali women and the perfect inspiration for the publication.

Welcoming Somali women all around the globe to a safe place, Araweelo Abroad provides them with the opportunity to reflect, celebrate and discuss their experiences through creative means of their choice. No restrictions, no limits – completely unabridged. It’s a permanent place for Somali women, not just a temporary space online.

Both originating as individual voices on Tumblr, the founders of the online community wanted to broaden the presence they’ve created on their dashboards into a more tangible platform where they, and other Somali women, can continue to tell their narrative and so Araweelo Abroad was born.

The online publication not only provided them with a space to express themselves wholeheartedly, something that they were unable to do in the surroundings of the offline world due to heavy scrutiny, but it also amplified their voices.

I didn’t see myself represented anywhere. Where were the Somali girls who were writers? Went to punk shows? Made visual art or music? Nothing in pop culture or literature seemed to strike to the core of my identities and experiences.

Ifrah Ahmed, Editor and Law Student

It’s a narrative all too familiar in today’s society. The lack of representation in the media of people of colour in different communities is lamentably real. But this did not deter the duo. If anything, it was the spark needed to start the fire. And now, as the presence of other Somali zines and magazines are slowly being acknowledged in the digital world, it only fuels them further. The essence of sisterhood is at the heart of the community – the secure sense of solidarity as Somali women from every corner of the world gather to present their stories to a platform that wants to tell it is what makes the platform reputable.

An integral part of the Somali culture, the act of storytelling is second nature to each voice in Araweelo Abroad, and it is executed beautifully. The articles and images published online to provide a sense of the individual’s voice – women who are at liberty to express their emotions about the mundane and the extraordinary aspects of the lives they are leading.

The collaboration of stories, interviews, photography and poetry exudes insight of the creative, resourceful and empowering minds of Somali women. It highlights their struggles and their empowerment. The gratifying, heartfelt experiences. The nitty gritty, taboo issues. The interviews are intuitive, the poetry honest and the art raw. It’s a culture worth experiencing and different lifestyles worth being exposed to.

To the viewer of each article; it’s a momentary insight of the individual’s world – to the individual creator of the content, it’s their lasting impression made in the digital sphere.