10 years of the Peacemakers Network to be celebrated in Helsinki
The FCA-hosted Network for Religious and Tradition Peacemakers (Peacemakers Network) will celebrate 10 years of peacebuilding and peace mediation on 26 October.
The event will convene representatives of the Governments of Finland, Oman, Kazakhstan and the United States as well as from the United Nations, broader Finnish civil society and more than 50 senior and youth representatives of the Peacemakers Network from around the world.
The Peacemakers Network was formed in 2013 in response to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s report titled “Strengthening the role of mediation in the peaceful settlement of disputes, conflict prevention and resolution.”
Taking the report as a starting point, the Ministry for Foreign Affairs Finland, the United Nations Mediation Support Unit and Finn Church Aid provided a leading role in the conceptualisation and operationalisation of the Peacemakers Network.
Over the past decade, the Peacemakers Network and Finn Church Aid have jointly supported local reconciliation in Somalia by integrating religious and traditional actors within the National Reconciliation Framework, hosted National Dialogue Forums in Helsinki, led delegations of religious and traditional actors to the United Nations to advocate for their pivotal role within peacebuilding and amplified the role of women and youth of faith within local and international platforms.
“10 years ago, representatives were gathered around a table in New York brainstorming this report. It is incredible to not only see how the Peacemakers Network was actualised, but to witness the incredible convening power it has had in bringing diverse stakeholders together to explore and work to address dynamic and diverse contexts and conflicts,” explains the Peacemakers Network Executive Director, Dr. Mohamed Elsanousi.
The need for the bringing together of diverse stakeholders is underlined soberly by the lack of progress in achieving the United Nation’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals set in 2012. At this point in time, not one of UN’s 191 member states is set to achieve the goals. This is partly due to a systemic failure to incorporate a multistakeholder approach in policies and programs to actualise the goals.
Peacebuilding and peace mediation
Acknowledging that the Sustainable Development Goals will only be achieved through a ‘whole of society’ approach, the Peacemakers Network and Finn Church Aid have collectively strived to enhance the capacity and strengthen the engagement of religious and traditional actors in peacebuilding and peace mediation.
Religious and traditional leaders need to be integrated within all peacebuilding and peace mediation processes as they often hold the most trust and legitimacy, more so than government officials and law enforcement. They are well positioned to have a comprehensive understanding of local dynamics and support needs. Religious and traditional leaders are ready, willing and able to engage in local and national peacebuilding and mediation efforts, with many already making substantial contributions to the field.
“It is important that we come together as a diverse community to learn, reflect and exchange ideas,’ shares Finn Church Aid’s Executive Director, Tomi Jarvinen. “In such troubling times, we are able to commiserate when the road is difficult, and simultaneously be inspired by the often-unsung work that religious and traditional leaders do every day to support peaceful and inclusive communities.”
Finn Church Aid has remained the host of the Peacemakers Network since its inception, strengthening its ‘Right to Peace’ portfolio. Both organizations will continue to prioritize the meaningful engagement of women, youth, and marginalized communities within this endeavor to create a true ‘whole of society’ approach.
Text: Sarah Tyler, The Network for Religious and Traditional Peacemakers
World Humanitarian Day: what does it take to be a humanitarian worker?
Mukhtar Hashi is a cash project officer at the FCA Somaliland office. He works with internally displaced persons in Somaliland by providing them with cash transfers to support their livelihood. He shared some thoughts with us on his long career in humanitarian work.
What inspired you to pursue a career in humanitarian work, and how did you first venture into this field? I was inspired by a combination of personal experiences and a desire to make a positive impact on the lives of others. Growing up, I was fortunate to have a supportive family and access to education, but that made me more aware of the disparities that exist in the world.
My first venture into the field of humanitarian work came during my college years. I joined a student-led volunteer group that organised local community outreach initiatives, and this experience opened my eyes to the power of collective action and the potential for grassroots efforts to effect change. Seeing the difference, we could make in marginalised peoples’ lives inspired me to commit myself further to humanitarian work.
As I delved deeper into this field, I engaged in internships and workshops that exposed me to broader global issues such as poverty, lack of access to proper healthcare, refugee crises, and environmental challenges. These experiences not only solidified my passion for humanitarian work but also underscored the interconnections between these issues and the need for holistic solutions.
Over time, my journey led me to collaborate with established humanitarian organisations, where I worked on projects ranging from disaster relief to sustainable development initiatives. These experiences taught me the value of interdisciplinary collaboration, cultural sensitivity, and adaptive problem-solving in the face of complex challenges.
Are there any particularly memorable experiences you’ve had while working in the field and have they impacted you personally? One incident that has profoundly impacted me was during a relief mission to a region affected by a tropical cyclone. While on the ground, our team witnessed the devastation Cyclone Sagar had wrought upon the community. Homes were destroyed, families were displaced, and the sense of loss was palpable.
Amidst this backdrop, we began setting up temporary shelters and distributing essential supplies. As we interacted with the affected individuals, I was struck by their resilience and how they came together to support one another in such trying times.
During our time there, I met a young girl named Sahra. She had lost her home and parents in the disaster, yet her spirit remained unbroken. Sahra’s determination to help her younger siblings and her unwavering optimism in the face of such tragedy left an indelible mark on me.
Witnessing Sahra’s story and the community’s collective strength reaffirmed my belief in the importance of humanitarian work. It served as a reminder that our efforts, no matter how challenging, have the potential to bring light to people’s lives and help them rebuild.
While there are indeed heart-wrenching moments in humanitarian work, experiences like these serve as beacons of hope and motivation. They remind us that even in the face of adversity, human compassion, resilience, and the power to make a positive impact can shine through. Such moments drive me to continue my work in this field.
Balancing the emotional toll of working in crises with the need to remain focused and effective in your work must be incredibly challenging. How do you deal with that? The nature of the work often exposes us to heart-wrenching stories and difficult circumstances, which can take a toll on our emotional well-being. However, managing this stress and continuing to provide support requires a combination of strategies that I’ve found invaluable.
Firstly, self-care is paramount. Taking care of your mental and physical health is not just important but a necessity. Engaging in regular exercise, maintaining a balanced diet, and practising relaxation techniques like meditation and deep breathing help me recharge and sustain resilience.
Secondly, fostering a solid support network is essential. Connecting with colleagues who understand the challenges and empathise with the emotions involved can provide a sense of camaraderie. Sharing experiences and thoughts with trusted friends and family outside of the field can also be incredibly comforting.
Maintaining clear boundaries between work and personal life is another crucial aspect. While it’s natural to be deeply invested in the lives of those we’re helping, setting limits helps prevent burnout. Allocating time for hobbies and interests and spending time with loved ones allows me to recharge and regain perspective.
Engaging in continuous development in your personal and professional life is very important as I believe it’s a way to cope with stress. Staying up to date with best practices, attending workshops, and seeking guidance from mentors enable me to enhance my skills and approach to humanitarian work.
Finally, focusing on the positive impact we make, even in the smallest of ways, helps maintain a sense of purpose. Celebrating achievements, no matter how incremental, reminds me that the effort is worthwhile and that I am making a difference, however modest it may seem.
What do you believe is the most critical quality for someone working in humanitarian aid, and how can someone cultivate that quality? Working in humanitarian aid demands a diverse set of qualities, and while empathy, resilience, and adaptability are all vital, one of the most critical qualities is a genuine and unwavering commitment to the cause.
Cultivating this commitment begins with a deep understanding of the purpose behind humanitarian work. It’s not just a job; it’s a calling driven by a sincere desire to alleviate suffering, promote human dignity, and effect positive change. This commitment fuels the determination needed to navigate the challenges and complexities inherent in this field.
Empathy plays a significant role. Being able to put oneself in the shoes of those in need fosters a genuine connection and understanding of their struggles. This empathy forms the foundation upon which effective solutions are built, ensuring that assistance is tailored to the needs and cultural contexts of the individuals being helped.
Resilience is equally crucial. Humanitarian work often involves witnessing difficult situations and confronting obstacles that can be emotionally taxing. The ability to bounce back from setbacks and maintain a sense of purpose is essential. Building resilience involves developing coping strategies, seeking support when needed, and focusing on the positive impact achieved.
Adaptability is another indispensable quality. Humanitarian contexts can change rapidly due to unforeseen events or shifting circumstances. Being able to quickly adjust strategies, methods, and plans while keeping the end goal in sight is crucial for ensuring that aid remains relevant and effective.
Effective communication and collaboration are also paramount. Humanitarian work often involves coordinating with diverse teams, partnering with local communities, and liaising with various stakeholders. Strong interpersonal skills facilitate building relationships, fostering trust, and ensuring that efforts are coordinated for maximum impact.
Continuous learning is vital as well. The humanitarian landscape constantly evolves, and staying informed about new developments, innovative approaches, and best practices is crucial for providing practical assistance.
Aspiring humanitarian workers can start by seeking opportunities for exposure and engagement to cultivate these qualities. Volunteering with local organisations, participating in workshops, and networking with professionals in the field provide valuable insights and experiences. Developing emotional intelligence, honing problem-solving skills, and maintaining a solid ethical compass are also vital.
The most critical quality for someone in humanitarian aid is an unwavering commitment rooted in empathy, resilience, adaptability, effective communication, and a passion for continuous learning. By cultivating these qualities, individuals can make a meaningful impact in the lives of those they aim to help.
FCA Launches i-LEARN project to make education accessible to displaced children in Somalia’s Southwest State
Displaced children will be able to access quality education even amidst crises, thanks to FCA-led, EU-funded project.
FCA Somalia recently launched its i-LEARN project, aiming to widen inclusive access for displaced children in Southwest State. The initiative is part of FCA’s European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations (ECHO) funded Education in Emergencies (EIE) project, in collaboration with our partners, GREDO, Daf Somalia, and the Ministry of Education in Southwest State.
The August 2023 launch event, held in Mogadishu, witnessed the participation of distinguished representatives and experts in the field of education, including FCA’s Senior Education Advisor, Aburas Farah, who shed light on the project and its mission to support newly displaced children in Southwest State.
Farah emphasised the importance of education in empowering and equipping children with the tools they need to rebuild their lives amidst difficult circumstances. Through the i-LEARN project, FCA and its partners aspire to reach 8,800 learners, focusing on newly displaced crises-affected children who comprise 80% of the target population.
Ali Mohamed, Programme director for GREDO, expressed his enthusiasm for the partnership and highlighted the organisation’s commitment to developing synergy with its partners. He emphasised that i-LEARN strives to make a lasting impact on displaced children’s lives by enabling them to access education opportunities that are inclusive, sustainable, and tailored to their specific needs.
During the event, Amina Ahmed Mohamed, EU-ECHO representative, spoke about how this milestone initiative by FCA will prove instrumental in supporting young children who have been uprooted from their homes due to conflicts, natural disasters, or other humanitarian crises. Amina applauded FCA’s commitment to making education more inclusive and accessible for these children as it challenges the barriers, they face in accessing quality education.
The launch event also had the privilege of hosting the Minister of Education for the Southwest State, Mustaf Iidow. Minister Iidow expressed his gratitude towards FCA, the EU, and all the partners involved in the i-LEARN project. He acknowledged the project’s potential to bring a transformative change in the lives of displaced children and their communities, especially those affected by insecurity and drought. The Minister reassured his full support and commitment to ensuring the project’s success and called for continued collaboration to address the education challenges these vulnerable children face.
David Nangumba, Head of Programmes and Business Development at FCA, also addressed the audience, highlighting the organisation’s dedication to advancing education in emergency settings. Nangumba emphasized that i-LEARN goes beyond providing immediate education support by focusing on long-term outcomes and lasting impact. He expressed FCA’s ambition to break the cycle of interruption in education that displaced children often experience, enabling them to attain knowledge, skills, and opportunities necessary for a brighter future.
I-LEARN seeks to reach out to displaced children in Southwest State, where access to education remains a significant challenge. By deploying innovative and inclusive teaching methods, the project aims to bridge educational gaps, enhance learning outcomes, and ensure these children’s social and emotional well-being. Through partnerships with local education authorities, FCA will establish safe learning spaces, provide learning materials, and train dedicated teachers to facilitate this transformative educational experience.
30 Somali women and girls are training in web and mobile development thanks to partnership between FCA and iRise innovation hub.
MAIDA MOHAMED AHMED is a bright and ambitious woman from Somalia who has always had a passion for finance and technology. She applied for a six month web and mobile development course at Somalia’s first innovation hub, iRise.
The course, funded by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs for Finland, is designed to empower girls and young women in an underrepresented field. The six-month course utilises design thinking skills to unlock the girls’ potential, ultimately empowering them to pursue a career in tech and improve their employment opportunities.
Today Maida is working as a web developer and is proud to be paving the way for other young women like herself to succeed in the tech industry.
This project is part of FCA’s thematic approach to connect learning with earning in their livelihood projects. The initiative is highly significant, particularly in Somalia, where women face numerous hurdles in accessing education and employment opportunities.
Somalia is well poised to develop its digital industries – it is the seventh cheapest place in the world for high-speed internet. By providing women with the skills and expertise to pursue a tech career, this project hopes to reduce the gender gap in the tech industry and improve the quality of living for Somali women.
The first batch of 15 girls have already completed the programme, while the other 15 expect to finish their studies soon.
As the first batch of graduates enters the workforce with their newly acquired skills, we hope to see significant changes in the industry in the gender ratio in Somalia. This program empowers girls to take on more challenging roles, disrupt stereotypes and create a more gender-inclusive workforce.
Text: Fatima Abshir Photos courtesy of Osama Nur Hussien for iRise
World Refugee Day 2023 – supporting Somalia’s internally displaced people
World Refugee Day is an opportunity to recognise and support the millions of people across the globe who have had to flee their homes due to conflict, violence, persecution, among other reasons. FCA also supports internally displaced people in places like Somalia.
Zaynab, 55, lives in the DurDur camp for internally displaced people in Burao, Somaliland. The longstanding drought in East Africa resulted in her livestock dying. Without resources to support her family of six children, she was forced to come to the camp.
FCA Somalia has been working tirelessly to assist households like Zaynab’s, affected by the longstanding drought in Somalia. From October 2022 to February 2023, the FCA team offered multipurpose unconditional cash transfers (MPCT) to help with urgent household requirements.
Cash lends flexibility to households
The cash project has proven essential in giving households the flexibility they need to deal with the impacts of the drought disaster, which have led to large-scale and long-lasting population shifts.
In Baidoa, Somalia, Hawa Noor a 35 year old mother of 5, arrived at the internally displaced people’s (IDP) camp from Dinsoor. She fled with her children after life became unbearable due to drought and violence in the region. She made the difficult decision to leave her husband to look after the small number of their goats that still survived.
“I was traumatised as life was difficult due to conflict and drought. On top of that, a memory I will never forget is my losing my sister, the mother of this young child (pointing to the 4-year-old girl sitting next to her). I’m her mother now,” she adds sadly.
Arriving at the camp, she had nothing to sustain her children’s needs. She depended on a neighbour’s aid and casual work, which was hard to come by. Getting proper shelter for the children was much more challenging than she had thought before leaving her home.
Building a business
Hawa was one of the beneficiaries supported by FCA’s cash payment of $80 per month for six months. In the first installment, she built a house for her children; in the second, she started a vegetable and groceries kiosk near the camp. Over the next months she continued contributing money to the small business each month while utilising the remaining cash for the children’s needs. She bought food, clean water and milk powder.
She also paid for her children’s school fees, plus educational materials.
FCA’s programme has transferred cash payouts via mobile phone transfers to targeted households in both regions of Baidoa and Burao. The initiative has focused on the most vulnerable individuals affected by the recent drought.
In all, 1100 households comprising 913 women and girls and 187 men and boys in 21 IDP camps have received a lifesaving cash distribution of $80 per home over three months.
As the programme comes to an end, many families like Hawa’s now have a small income-generating activity to sustain their daily needs until conditions become better.
New skills lead to sustainable livelihoods
In Baidoa, a project funded by the ACT Alliance, provides training for 40 women, who are also internal refugees. They learn handicrafts, like henna painting, as well as skills and basic numeracy and literacy to support running the business.
After the two month long training, carried out with our partners at the Bay Women Institute in Baidoa, the new entrepreneurs can offer their trade at the local market, bringing in extra income for their households.
The skills were chosen because they were simple yet marketable skills that the women could use within the camp to quickly generate income.
Due to their newly gained skills, the students also reported a boost in their self-esteem and confidence. The project highlights FCA’s commitment to support vulnerable communities through capacity building and empowerment initiatives.
District council formation in Burhakaba, Somalia launched with emphasis on inclusion
Burhakaba district in the Bay region of Somalia celebrated the launch of a process to form their district council, a critical step in forming inclusive local governance to support peace and development in the region
The President of Southwest State of Somalia, H.E Abdiaziz Hassan Mohamed Laftagaren, graced the launch event on June 11th 2023 of the district council formation process for Burhakaba district in order to improve the provision of essential service delivery to the people in Burhakaba.
The district stakeholders welcomed the initiative, citing it as an opportunity to advance the long-awaited decentralization effort in the district. “Whereas the district government has been an exclusive institution in the past, the initiative district council brings needed local representation.”
“The population of Burhakaba will no longer feel the pinch due to the lack of inclusive administration as we are set to elect a council that can hopefully advance our mutual interests,” said Muno Mohamed, the Chair of Burhakaba district.
H.E. President Abdiaziz Hassan Mohamed Laftagaren echoed similar thoughts further stating that “[the] Burhakaba population should take note of other districts such as Hudur, Barawe, Dinsoor and Bardale that have a well-functioning district administration.”
The path to one person, one vote
The President, speaking on the monumental achievement for the district, explained the three phases of the council formation. The first phase is where the Ministry of Interior nominates the district administration; phase two sees a section of key community representatives electing the council members through a series of consultative and awareness raising process; and phase three will involve a voting process to elect one representative at each district in the state before the end of next year.
“We want to have an accountable district administration that can help the population of Somalia to achieve the planned second phase of liberation efforts that would eventually set the country free from the shackles of Al-Shabab and through which we can after achieve meaningful development,” continued the President.
Inclusive governance through meaningful women’s representation
While speaking on women’s inclusion to the council members, the Minister of the Interior Southwest State of Somalia, Mr. Abdullahi, shared, “We can no longer define inclusivity as just having few clan members at the district administration, but rather we want to see women at the decision-making table through ensuring 30 per cent quorum for women representation at Burhakaba district council. “
Mr. Abdullahi’s counterpart from the Ministry, the Director General, Mr. Mustafa, also emphasized the need to have meaningful female representation.
“My specific request goes to our respectable community elders, we should no longer be discussing the inclusion of women without tangible progress and as such we aim to have women incorporated to this crucial process throughout. As such, Burhakaba should follow the path of Dinsoor which had 50 per cent female council members “
FCA supports the formation of inclusive local governance through district council formation in line with the Wadajir National Framework and National Reconciliation Framework. Together with the Network for Religious and Traditional Peacemakers, we work closely with the Somali State and Federal Government, local authorities, communities, and civil society partners.
Extreme weather continues to affect Somalia – FCA grants additional funding for its humanitarian aid operation
FCA granted 200,000 euros of additional funding from its disaster fund to ease the crisis created by the prolonged drought in Somalia.
SOMALIA AND the entire Horn of Africa region have suffered from a severe drought for almost three years after five rainy seasons failed to materialise. In 2022 Somalia was also threatened by famine due to the ongoing drought. The hunger crisis killed 43,000 people in Somalia last year alone. About half of the dead were children under the age of five.
At the beginning of 2023, some parts of Somalia were hit by another form of extreme weather – experiencing heavy rains and flooding.
“The whole of Somalia has been suffering from prolonged drought and its effects for a long time. Unfortunately, the recent rains have been so violent that they have caused floods, which damage habitat and livelihoods, especially in the Gedo area,” says FCA’s Somalia country manager Ikali Karvinen.
Cash assistance replaces livelihoods lost through drought
“With the help of the new funding granted by the Disaster Fund, we will be able to respond to the suffering on the Somaliland side as well. The purpose of emergency aid is to help meet the basic everyday needs of families in the midst of a humanitarian crisis.”
The assistance covers 600 of the most vunerable families – that amounts to about 3,600 people in the Burao and Togdheer regions of Somaliland. FCA distributes cash assistance to families for a total of three months. The cash allowance corresponds to approximately 74 euros per month. It allows families to obtain vital supplies such as food and water.
In addition, a total of 50 people in the region, who participate in business mentoring training organised by FCA, will receive assistance. The target of the project is particularly women and disabled people who have lost their existing small businesses due to the drought.
Drought and violent terrorism have driven millions of Somalis to be internal refugees
In Somalia, famine threatens around 4–6 million people. According to UN estimates, about half of Somalis need humanitarian aid due to drought and conflicts. As many as 8 million people do not have access to clean water. Added to that, acute malnutrition, cholera and measles are also spreading in the country.
Drought and violent terrorism have driven millions of Somalis to be internal refugees. The movement of millions of people from one place to another in a country where living conditions are already poor increases the risk of internal conflicts in the country. In addition, the war in Ukraine has increased the price of food and worsened inflation in Somalia.
The UN recently estimated that the drought would lead to up to 135 deaths per day in Somalia between January and June. It is feared that the situation will deteriorate to as bad as in 2011, when more than 260,000 people died of starvation, half of them children. The last bad drought period hit Somalia in 2016–2017. A fast and robust global response led to lives being saved. This time, however, global funding has significantly fallen short.
FCA has granted approximately 580,000 euros from its disaster fund to alleviate the humanitarian crisis caused by climate change in Somalia during the past two years.
More information: FCA Somalia Country Director, Ikali Karvinen ikali.karvinen(at)kua.fi
FCA International Communications Manager, Ruth Owen ruth.owen(at)kua.fi
Educating the next generation of children in South-West Somalia
The right to quality education is at the core of FCA’s work. In Somalia, FCA helps children access free education in the Bay region through our EU funded Accelerated Basic Education programme. The programme helps kids with school equipment, catch-up classes and extracurricular activities.
Many of the schoolchildren we help have missed out on primary education due to fleeing conflict, drought or poverty. 2286 children have been reached since July 2021 in the Baidoa, Hudur, Elbarde and Wajid districts of Somalia. Starting with FCA cash transfers, families can buy children school uniforms, books and stationery to attend class.
FCA also helps to provide sports and child-friendly spaces, which improve kids’ overall psychosocial wellbeing to combat distress caused by conflict and other crises.
Two students enrolled on the ABE programme recently shared their experiences.
“I had to stay home and help with the chores”
Lulay Osman Ibrahim, 14, attends Mustaqbal Integrated Primary School and lives with her mother and five siblings in Baidoa camp for internally displaced people. Her mother, Safia, made the decision to leave Dinsoor two years ago due to violent conflict in the region and ongoing drought.
“I was living with my children in Dinsoor and had a small farm where I grew vegetables but due to the prolonged drought and long conflict in the town, it was no longer possible” says Safia.
“Life became difficult, especially for single mothers like myself, so I decided to come to Baidoa town and settled in the IDP camp to seek support ” she adds.
Lulay wanted to go to school, but there were barriers to her attending.
“When I saw the hard life in the IDP camps and the struggle my mother was undergoing, I became more eager to go school and study so I could later help my family. That was my dream, but my mother could not afford to buy me uniform and books, so I had to stay home and help her with the house chores,” says Lulay.
“I used to see my friends going to school in the morning, I felt sad, but I had no choice since my mother could not afford to take me to school,” she adds.
Thanks to community awareness efforts by staff from FCA’s Somalia country office, Lulay learned about the APE programme. With her mother’s support, she registered with the school and her family soon received cash support.
After one year, Lulay aced her exams and joined the mainstream classes. She’s now in third grade and hopes to one day become a teacher.
From livestock to learning
Abshir Adan Borow, 17, came from a life of looking after livestock in a remote village. Due to increasing drought, he was sent to live with an aunt in Baidoa.
“I never thought in my wildest dreams that I will find myself in a classroom and learning. I didn’t even know the ABCs when I started going to school, and my numeracy and literacy skills have improved tremendously.”
Abshir also attends Mustaqbal Integrated School under the ABE programme and after two years can now read and write.
The programme also enabled his brother Ismail to attend school, later both transferring to formal primary school classes after passing the ABE transition examination.
“It’s incredible how life can change in just a short time. We might have lost our livestock, but the FCA education programme has given us a ray of hope to look forward to a brighter future,” Abshir gushes.
“One day I want to work as agricultural and livestock expert to assist my community in climate change initiatives and horticulture.”
Aid to Somalia goes directly into the pockets of warlords – right, Ikali Karvinen?
Ikali Karvinen, Finn Church Aid country director in Somalia, has spent a lot of time dealing with the question why people don’t simply move away from places where life is difficult. Now he also responds to tough claims that also appear on FCA’s social media channels.
Ikali Karvinen, you’re currently the head of the FCA office in Somalia. Previously, you’ve been the country director in Cambodia, worked in Eritrea and travelled in places like North Korea. It seems like you’re chasing misery. FCA’s strategy is to work where we’re most needed. People living in these places are having a hard time in many ways; they might not have a livelihood, or the state can’t provide them with an education. It’s a challenge to work in these states, of course, but it’s also an opportunity to learn more.
You’re a Finnish country director in Somalia. That sounds a lot like Finns telling Somalis how things are done. Development co-operation has changed in the past decades, and we international employees have become something comparable to consultants. From Finland, we can bring knowledge and understanding about the immense power education has to change the dynamic of a country. We’re not telling Somalis that this is how you must do things; instead, we tell them about our experiences in Finland that might be useful for them, too. It’s more about offering information. Also, it’s not emphasised enough that we also learn a lot ourselves. What I’ve learned so far in Somalia might improve Finland when I return.
You have a PhD in health science, and you’ve studied subjects like disaster preparation. In Somalia, drought is no longer a surprise to anyone. It’s strange that people aren’t better prepared. In Somalia, a long-running civil war and conflict have made the state collapse. The government isn’t able to maintain even the most basic services. When basic services are lacking, it’s immensely difficult to look into the future and prepare for it. Another important factor is education; it’s not only knowing about the past, but also teaching people to prepare for the future. It’s good to bear in mind that many other countries are very weakly prepared for the rapidly intensifying effects of climate change. Somalia is one of the countries that suffer most from climate change. Together we must ensure that people living in Somalia don’t suffer disproportionately from its consequences.
Somalis on the brink of famine are being supported with cash allowances. That sounds weird, because at the same time we keep hearing about their lack of food – what are they using the cash for? This is an excellent observation. Cash allowances have become more and more common recently, and in addition to FCA, many other organisations deliver them to Somalia. Cash allowances work for as long as there’s a functioning market, and at least currently there are no signs of the market not functioning in Somalia. In other words, if people have money, they can purchase commodities when there’s still food available. The problem is that people living in extreme poverty can’t afford the market prices. People relying on cash allowances have had to leave their homes and practically lose everything they once owned. In their new home, they have nothing, and that’s where a cash allowance can have a significant impact.
Aid makes no sense, because it just goes into the pockets of warlords. This is the kind of critical thinking that’s particularly important in fragile contexts, which is also where FCA works. Somalia is at the bottom of the corruption index, and we can’t close our eyes to the possibility of misconduct. At FCA, financial matters are closely monitored. It’s important for us to have a country office with sufficient staff; this way, we can ensure that the aid goes where it’s supposed to go. For example, in the case of cash allowances, we make sure that the recipients have been registered, and after that, we check that the mobile money has been delivered to the intended recipient’s phone number. This way we aim to ensure that the money goes to the right place.
The best way to battle a drought is to dig a well. Unfortunately this isn’t the case. We have research on how, in the regions most affected by climate change, digging a well might be extremely harmful due to the contamination of groundwater. In Somalia, the best way would be to collect water when there’s rain. A smart thing to do would be to innovate efficient irrigation systems and grow crops suitable for the climate.
Somalia is a textbook example of a country that will never see peace. I understand the feeling of desperation when it comes to Somalia. There are conflict areas where, after a short period of peace, violence breaks out again. To me that means that the reconciliation process has been superficial and ignored some of the parties of the conflict. Finn Church Aid supports a national reconciliation process in Somalia, and we want all civic groups on board; including young people, women, and disabled people from ethnic minorities. That’s how reconciliation is built on solid ground.
Why do people have children, if there’s not even enough food for oneself? Here, having children is in some way a form of social security. We know that in Finland we used to have much larger families, which was partially due to the lack of elderly care or childcare services. In other words, when there are more people in the family, there’s hope that some of them will be able to look after the others. I do agree that the issue is critical for Somalia. It’s crucial that Somalia moves in a direction where children aren’t the only form of social security.
It seems that life has been hard for Somalis decade after decade. They should just leave the country to solve their problems. I have, from my own perspective, wondered what the best place to live is. To many Finns, Finland is the best place. Your home and loved ones tie you to the country you were born in and where you lived your first years, and even difficulties might not make you leave your home. I’ve met Somali women who’ve said that leaving is the last means of survival. In some way it’s a positive thing that people want to believe in a future in their home country. They can see positive things despite huge difficulties, and they believe they can build their society and make the country liveable.
Girls’ education gains ground in Somalia’s hard-to-reach area
Five thousand learners enrolled in school in Hudur in one of the first education interventions in the area, supported by EU Humanitarian Aid (ECHO). Almost half of the learners were girls.
Parents in Somalia’s rural areas have traditionally not valued education, and if the opportunity exists, families typically send only their boys to school. As a result, the interventions in the education sector were few when FCA launched its program in six schools in Hudur in June 2020.
FCA started implementing the education project funded by EU Humanitarian Aid (ECHO) by launching mass awareness-raising campaigns on the importance of education. In addition, community meetings and the forming of local education committees increased the engagement of people.
Child marriage is one of the most significant barriers to girls’ education in areas such as Hudur. Becoming a caretaker of the family and a mother can end their chances of progressing at school.
Poverty is another obstacle to sending children to school. However, within this program, education is free, and the quality of learning is ensured through teacher training and quality learning materials. As a result, the project reached its goal of enrolling five thousand learners. The learners include 2,387 girls, almost half of the total. To keep girls in school during menstruation, 806 girls received monthly sanitary kits. In addition, older boys and girls were given gender-sensitive recreational materials.
Muna Mohamed Haydar, 17, washes her hands outside the school. She says, “My teachers are good and teach well. Math is my favorite subject because I enjoy doing calculations. It is important for us to attend school. Education will help us build a bright future.”
Teacher Lul Mohamed Nur is responsible for the protection and safety of the students. She encourages girls to receive good education. Today, the number of girls is higher than the number of boys in my school. She tells that, “we have achieved this after conducting relentless awareness in the neighborhood, telling families the importance of sending their girls to schools. We give special attention to learners with disabilities. They are often allocated seats at the front of the classroom.”
Hawa Isak Warsame, 16, tells, “my parents couldn’t afford to pay for my school fees but since it is free and they give us uniforms and other learning materials. I am keen to take advantage of this opportunity to educate myself.” Her favourite subject is English and she would like to work for a humanitarian organisation in the future. She also praises the safety of the school: “If one of the learners feel threatened they can submit their complaint into the box FCA has brought us. This really given me and my classmates a strong sense of safety.”
Suleqo Hassan Adan, 10, tells, “I like math because it is easy for me. I want to become a well-known engineer and rebuild my country or a teacher to help those in need in the community.” She also has a strong opinion about equality: “Education is important for everyone whether be it a boy or a girl. Parents must give equal opportunity to their children.”
Hamaro Mohamed Nur is Suleqo’s mother. “My daughter has been attending the school for a year. I always encourage her to go to the school and learn something. At first she used to resist but now she got used to it and she likes going to the school. Her interest has increased since she received uniform and learning materials. She has a lot of energy for her books now. My daughter is a child with special needs, she cannot see well due to her albinism. She told me the teachers make her sit next to the blackboard so that she sees what is written on the board. She really likes her teachers.”
Mohamed Hassan Abdirahman teaches English to internally displaced pupils. “I was motivated by the need of my community. There was no school in the area before we came up with the idea of establishing this learning center. All of the children here were out of school, so I decided to take action along with like-minded friends. As for the learners with disabilities, we pay special attention to them. We try to listen their demands and protect them from bullying. Safety and protection of the students is of high priority for us” and adds that it can protect girls from early marriages.
Zainab Abdullahi Ahmed, 10, goes to school for accelerated basic education (ABE) and says that she enjoys learning new things. “My teachers help me a lot. I don’t feel any problems attending the classes.” She also wants to help others in the future: “When I grow up, I want to become a doctor.”
Maryan Warsame tells that her child has been attending the school for five years. She says that, “as a parent, I am grateful for helping to educate my daughter. Here we consider teachers as second parents and indeed they are second parents because they treat our kids as their own.” She tells that, “I have both daughters and sons and I send all of them to school, but I am more confident in my daughters. An educated girl will always be helpful to her parent.”
Bashir Moallin Mohamed, 18, says he is very ambitious about his education. He praises the teacher for being kind and highly qualified. “English is my favorite subject because I am good at the grammar. I hope to speak good English soon. I want to become a teacher like my teachers and educate the the people in need in the community.”