Hodan Nalayeh made it her mission to show another side to Somalia – its beauty and that of its people.
Her desire to focus on the positive and ultimately inspire young Somalis around the world to help rebuild the country made her famous – and her death in Friday’s attack on a hotel in the southern city of Kismayo has prompted an outpouring of grief.
She and her husband Farid Juma Suleiman were among the 26 people killed as gunmen stormed the Asasey Hotel, where regional politicians and clan elders were discussing a forthcoming regional election.
In a Facebook post, her family said Nalayeh – a 43-year-old mother-of-two who was pregnant at the time of her death – had “spent her life devoted to serving the Somali people and reporting on positive, uplifting stories” in order to “spread light and love to the Somali world”.
“She brought inspiration and hope to the Somali people through storytelling. She will be deeply missed,” the statement said.
Nalayeh was born in the northern Somali city of Las Anod but grew up in Canada after moving here with her parents and 11 siblings when she was six. She decided to base herself in Somalia last year.
In her 30s, Nalayeh studied for a postgraduate degree in broadcast journalism and in 2014 she launched Integration TV, an online platform aimed at the Somali community in Canada and the wider Somali diaspora.
She told the podcast Meaningful Work, Meaningful Life that social media had “changed the game for how people learn about culture”.
“If we don’t become the creators of our own content, we are going to be at the mercy of other people telling the stories of Africa,” she said, according to CBC.
Canada’s Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen – himself of Somali origin – said Nalayeh had highlighted the Somali community’s contributions in Canada.
“She became a voice for many. We mourn her loss deeply, and all others killed in the Kismayo attack,” he said.
Integration TV quickly became popular among the Somali diaspora and also brought her into contact with her husband, who was reportedly helping to build wells in Somalia.
In 2018 Nalayeh moved to Somalia where she continued her reporting. Recent episodes had focused on Somalia’s female entrepreneurs and things to do in the city of Las Anod and she also used her social media accounts to highlight local life and culture.