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Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist — even more so for someone who cannot see. Journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade, despite being blind.

The visually impaired reporter has defied the odds in a country ranked among the deadliest for journalists. He works at one of Mogadishu's leading radio stations.

His friends and colleagues call him Kalgacal.

“I had an eye illness at a very young age. But I couldn’t get proper medical treatment due to the situation in Somalia. After the civil war started, I lost all hope of ever seeing again and had no medical support,” he said.

Despite the massive challenges, Kalgacal persevered and now works at Goobjoog Radio Station as its senior reporter covering the Somali parliament.

He also has a weekly program for disabled people called State of the Disabled. The live call-in show is popular, focusing on empowering the disabled by educating them on their basic rights.

“I hope to use my position in the media to be a voice of the people and improve the humanitarian situation,” he said.

And he said he hopes his message will resonate beyond Somalia’s borders.

Speaking two years ago at a Technology, Entertainment and Design event — a global non-profit group to promote cultural understanding — Kalgacal described his journey from being born to a poor family in southern Somalia to becoming a husband, a father and journalist despite his visual impairment.

He said many people advised him against pursuing such a dangerous career. He said it was his childhood dream, though, and being sightless doesn’t make him any more — or any less — vulnerable than other journalists.

The key to overcoming his challenges, he said, is a belief in himself, the support of his friends and family — and bosses willing to employ him for his skills and overlook his disability.