Start-up money helps young entrepreneurs in Somaliland

Start-up money helps young entrepreneurs in Somaliland

Hibak markets the clothes she designs on social media, Sakariya’s café invites customers for coffee and books. Seed money also helps Sainab, who lost her business in a devastating fire. This is how FCA is supporting livelihoods in Hargeisa, Somaliland.

Text and photos: Björn Udd

More than 60 per cent of young people are unemployed in the northern part of Somalia, which is known as Somaliland. The country, which has suffered from decades of conflict, lacks sufficient jobs, which is why even educated young people are often left with no options. Youth unemployment is particularly urgent in the region, as approximately 70 per cent of the inhabitants of Somaliland are children and young people.

A workplace provides an important livelihood, and not only for the employee. Since so many people are without income, a single employed person in Somaliland can support up to twenty family members.

Making a living signicantly improves people’s future prospects, so FCA is focusing on supporting young people who want to become entrepreneurs in the city of Hargeisa. Having your own income also eases the position of women and the disabled, because with a regular salary they have better opportunities to plan their own lives. Those who dream of entrepreneurship, however, often lack the necessary funds and accounting skills to start a business. FCA bridges the gap by offering free training and start-up grants.

But young people are not the only group that needs support in Hargeisa. In April 2022, the large market of Waheen burned to the ground, and with it, the savings, warehouses, and business premises of an estimated 2,000–5,000 merchants turned into ashes. The ravages of the fire and global inflation completely crippled the city’s economy. While there were no deaths, damages from the fire amounted to around $2 billion US Dollars, or up to 60% of Somaliland’s GDP.

After the fire, FCA gave twenty female entrepreneurs €500 cash relief, which has enabled them to restart their operations.

In this story, we meet three small entrepreneurs from Hargeisa: two of them are young people at the beginning of their working careers, and the third represents a more experienced generation of merchants.

Hibak Hiis Mohamoud is a 23-year-old tailor who markets her clothes on social media.

“When I started the tailoring course, the others had already been in school for two months. There was no more room on the school bus. I walked to school for an hour and a half every day. Finally, the teachers realised that I was serious and gave me a place to study,” says Hibak Hiis Mohamoud.

Excuduing self-confidence and activity as she recounts the stages of her life, Hibak explains that her father did not want anything to do with his family. That decision caused difficulties in many ways, but also to study, because her mother had a low income and school fees were high. Once Hibak called her father and asked him to pay the school fees, but he refused.

“So I then sold my only possessions, the earrings, at the market. With the money, I bought school books and fruit for my mother,” Hibak says.

A Somali woman looks at the camera with a smile.
Hibak Hiis Mohamoud used to walk every day for an hour and a half to school to study to be a tailor. “Finally, the teachers realised I was serious and gave me a place to study,” she says.

First, Hibak studied to be a midwife, but when no work could be found, she decided to switch to a tailoring course organised by FCA. Hibak followed fashionable women on social media, whose style she began to imitate in her own collection. However, acquiring new customers was difficult.

“I wore the clothes I made and went to cafes so that others could see what kind of clothes I make. I was asked where I bought my clothes. That’s how I found customers”, Hibak laughs.

Today, Hibak makes not only clothes but also bags. She markets his products on social media and there are enough buyers from Somalia’s capital, Mogadishu. Hibak sends clothes by post and receives payments from customers using a mobile application. Currently, she earns about $60 US Dollars a month.

“At first, my mother didn’t give me permission to go to the course because I already had training as a midwife. Now she sees how I bring home money, and encourages me to continue,” says Hibak.

“All my life I have been dependent on others, but now I have become an independent woman.”

Even the relationship with her father has changed with education.

“When my father heard that I had become a seamstress, he became my customer. I want my father to see that it was a mistake to abandon us.”

Sainab Abdi Farah is an experienced market seller who revived her shop after a devastating fire.

“The fire started on Friday, my day off. I was at home and when I heard about the fire, I rushed to the scene. The whole store was on fire. When the fire burned out, I had lost everything.”

A woman in a patterned hijab and abaya stands behind a stall in a market
Sainab Abdi Farah’s first business burned down in a devastating fire in 2022.

Sainab sadly tell us about the day that changed everything in her hometown of Hargeisa. On the first day of April in 2022, the market was destroyed across an area of almost ten hectares. In one day, people’s savings, livelihoods and the city’s own economic prospects all disappeared.

“It was terrible. I don’t get support from anyone, and my husband has been sick for a long time,” says Sainab, whose entire family of 11 depend on her income.

Sainab’s husband has back problems and needs surgery. According to Sainab, the treatment costs 18,000 dollars, and since healthcare in Somaliland does not work well, the surgery should be done abroad.

“Right now, all I have left is hope. I want to expand my business and make enough money to support my family.”

After the fire, Sainab was allowed to sell her goods on the steps of a shop set up in a former warehouse. She kept her merchandise in a small box. However, the business was so small that it was impossible to live on the income.

“I received $500 from FCA and a week-long merchant training so that I could get my business up and running again. Without support, it would have been impossible for me to expand my business.”

Now, instead of a small box, Sainab has a whole cart of merchandise, such as clothes, scarves and more. She still has permission to sell on the steps of the shop.

“We help each other. My products go well with the store’s products. I sell women’s and children’s clothes, and they sell hair and skin care products,” says Sainab.

But business is still difficult. A large part of the marketplace is still under construction, and customers have not found their way back.

“In a good month, I make about $70. Before the fire, I earned up to $200,” says Sainab.

“All of us here hope that things will go back to normal.”

A man holding a white cane stands in front of a coffee making machine in front of a tiled wall.
Sakariya Ali Isack founded a cafe with his friend with the start-up money, where customers can buy snacks as well as specialty coffees.

20-year-old entrepreneur Sakariya Ali Isack has been blind since the age of 3.

“We are establishing a fast food cafe. We sell specialty coffees, teas, fried chicken and french fries,” enthuses Sakariya Ali Isack.

The café is still being renovated. Building materials lying around the business premises. The rush to get it finishes is intense, because in a few days ‘Books and Coffee’ will open its doors to the public. Shelves will offer books that customers can read while drinking coffee.

Sakariya and three friends used $4,000 start-up money, provided by FCA, for rent, decorating, purchasing coffee and deep-frying machines and food supplies. The café receives books that have already been read once as donations.

“I take care of administrative tasks, cleaning and also some of the catering. I can serve most of the products, but, for example, telling soft drinks apart from each other is tricky,” says Sakariya, who is blind.

He tells us that becoming an entrepreneur has brought a lot of advantages with it even before the café opens. According to Sakariya, people with disabilities are discriminated against in the local culture. He has even been attacked by strangers.

“In high school, even the teachers asked why I was there. I had to convince myself that I’m smart, I ended up teaching Braille to the teachers. However, the bullying never completely stopped.”

In addition to the start-up money, Sakariya has attended training organized by FCA, which teaches, for example, accounting, data processing and market research.

“These skills will be very useful. I hope to soon earn enough to support my family and siblings.”

Sakariya also dreams of starting her own family. He is engaged and will be married later this year.

“My fiancé is also blind. I don’t know if it will cause problems in the future, but we understand each other well, and I think that’s the most important thing.”

Flooding has disrupted the education of millions of children in south-west Somalia

Flooding has disrupted the education of millions of children in south-west Somalia

As world leaders, UN experts, and climate specialists discuss mitigating the effects of climate change in the world, they continue to wreak havoc on millions of lives around the globe, especially in Africa and other third-world countries.

IN MY RECENT visit to schools supported by FCA Somalia in the hard-to-reach areas of Elberde, Hudur, and Baidoa in late November 2023, I witnessed firsthand the devastating impact of the El Niño rains.

These heavy rains have triggered widespread flooding, resulting in the loss of life, the displacement of thousands of families, and significant damage to critical school infrastructure.

Schools supported by FCA Somalia have been severely affected, with walls, windows, roofs, latrines, and even temporary learning spaces that were previously constructed by FCA, being destroyed or rendered unusable. This poses serious safety risks for students, as broken windows and walls exposed them to potential hazards.

Flooded classrooms pose a risk to students

Furthermore, the heavy flooding has left most schools waterlogged, rendering routes impassable for both students and teachers. This disruption in transportation has severely hampered teaching and learning activities, even in areas where the rains have temporarily subsided.

Increased drop-outs

Consequently, many learners have been forced to remain in their settlements or homes, leading to increased dropout rates. Additionally, the situation has put young girls at a higher risk of early marriage as their families seek alternative means of survival amidst these challenging circumstances. It is disheartening to note that many of these individuals were either recently or previously displaced due to drought or conflict before the onset of the rains, exacerbating their suffering.

The flooding also leads to the outbreak of waterborne diseases

Moreover, the waterlogged conditions have resulted in the outbreak of waterborne diseases such as dysentery and cholera, affecting both students and internally displaced persons (IDPs) in the surrounding areas of the schools, and many learners have been admitted to local clinics with the support of FCA school-based child protection focal points and school community leaders.

It is crucial to highlight that numerous schools have also suffered significant damage and lost desks and other essential teaching and learning materials, including books, as a result of the floods, and the few schools that have survived the flooding are being utilised as shelters for the affected IDPs.

Prolonged effects of flooding

Considering this disaster, the government, specifically the Ministry of Education, had taken the necessary step of temporarily closing schools for a period of two weeks. This decision was made to prioritise the safety of learners. However, by the time of my visit, the government had reopened the schools, allowing students to resume their education. Nevertheless, the effects of the flooding are still visible in many schools, as they have suffered significant damage due to the heavy devastation caused by the Elinino-induced rains.

Even though schools have reopened, many bear significant damage

On our part as FCA Somalia, we actively responded to the floodings by working and coordinating alongside our partners and other key actors, such as education cluster partners, in the areas of assessment and support. We also supported the most affected schools by distributing learning materials to a few affected learners whose materials were destroyed by the flooding.

In the future, we will conduct community advocacy to raise awareness about the importance of building a protective learning environment for children. To achieve this, we will provide training sessions on appropriate climate change and disaster risk reduction (DRR) to teachers, child club members, the school community, and the administration.

We aim to empower the school community, teachers, and learners and enhance their participation in creating a safer and more resilient educational environment. By equipping teachers, child club members, and school administrators with the necessary knowledge and skills, we believe that we can better prepare them to handle future challenges related to climate change and natural disasters.

The writer of this blog is FCA Somalia’s Senior Education and Quality Advisor in Somalia

Find out more about FCA’s work in Somalia

10 years of the Peacemakers Network to be celebrated in Helsinki

10 years of the Peacemakers Network to be celebrated in Helsinki

A number of people sit in a circle under a tree in a rural and arid landscape
Through FCA efforts, this first convening in 2011 with religious and tribal leaders in Somalia resulted in the concept of the Network for Religious and Traditional Peacemakers. Photo: Peacemakers Network.

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.

Convening power

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?

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.

A smiling man in a baseball cap, sunglasses and denim shirt and jeans stands in an arid landscape
Mukhtar believes humanitarian work is a calling

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.

Interviewer: Fatima Abshir

FCA Launches i-LEARN project in Somalia

FCA Launches i-LEARN project to make education accessible to displaced children in Somalia’s Southwest State

Three men sit at a desk in an office in front of a large poster with details about the FCA iLearn project
The EU-funded iLearn project supports our provision of education in emergency to displaced children.

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.

Text and photos: Fatima Abshir

Somali women train in web development

Somali women train in web development

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.

A woman in an abaya an hijab leans over a computer. She is smiling.
Maida is a student at a web development training course in Mogadishu, Somalia.
FCA partners with iRise innovation hub thanks to MFA Finland funding.

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.

Two young women in hijabs and abayas sit next to computers. They are looking towards the camera and smiling
Maida (L) and her fellow students at the iRise hub web development training course in Mogadishu, Somalia.

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 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.

A woman and a child sit behind a stall full of vegetables
Hawa sits with her niece at her vegetable stall in an IDP camp in Baidoa.
She set up the stall with cash from FCA. PHOTO: FCA

“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.

Text: Fatima Abshir

District council formation in Burhakaba, Somalia launched with emphasis on inclusion

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 “

The President reiterated the stakeholders’ consensus on the need to have women and youth in the decision-making process. The Somali authorities and communities lead the council formation process of Burhakaba with funding from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs for Finland via the MIDEEYE project, supported by The Network for Religious and Traditional Peacemakers and implemented by FCA Somalia.

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.

Text: Fatima Abshir

Extreme weather continues to affect Somalia – FCA grants new funding

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:

More information: FCA Somalia Country Director, Ikali Karvinen

FCA International Communications Manager, Ruth Owen

Educating the next generation of children in South-West Somalia

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.

Since the start of the project, funded by European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations (ECHO), there has been a positive shift in girls’ education, with more female students enrolling in schools. The programme also supports teachers, who received training and mentorship.

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.

A girl in a red Abaya stands in the indoors in front of a schooldesk.
Lulay Osman Ibrahim, 14, is enrolled in FCA’s ABE program in Mustaqbal Integrated Primary School

 “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.”

A teenager sits at a school desk in a classroom reading a textbook
Abshir Adan Borow sits in a social studies lesson at Mustaqbal Integrated Primary School

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.”

Text and photos: Fatima Abshir