Women hopes for a brighter future
Saadia Nur lives in Las Anod town in the Sool region. She relies solely on money she earns washing clothes for other families and working as a porter, even though it requires immense physical strength and long hours away from her home. "I have to do this so that I can feed my children, who have no one else to provide for," she said.
Despite her toil, what she earns is not enough. "What I earn each day could be $1 or less, which is not enough for my children and my basic needs," Saadia said, she adds many women from the Sool region carry a heavy burden and suffer from poverty and unemployment.
The prolonged civil war and the insecurity in the country since the collapse of the central state in 1991 have caused not only destruction of the physical infrastructure but caused great human suffering. Also its impact resulted in displacement within and outside the country. Furthermore it has changed the family fabric of the society in general. Families were separated. Families’ relationship has gone through tremendous change. In other words the traditional social values eroded, leading a change within the members of the families’ responsibilities and roles. This social change with the families’ responsibilities and roles effected most women.
Following the information gathered from other regions in the country by other international agencies found that women were working 30 % more than men and 70 to 80 % of the households were dependent on women’s earnings for the family’s livelihood. Although we have not yet collected an overall data of the current socio-economic position of the women in our operational area, the situation according to our partner’s (HANAQAAD) involvement in the gender issues the overall picture of the women is not different from the rest of the country.
The patriarchal nature of Somali culture seems not to deter the resolve of women in Sool region of Northern Somalia to brighten their future despite many odds. Women in this region are the bread winners of families. Circumstance has made them to be the key providers of families in the region. The region is perceived to be disputed and contested by warring factions of Somaliland, Puntland and Khaatumo state. This has made it to have less opportunities and rampant unemployment among the locals which left women to fight for sustenance of their families by doing small scale business such as selling cloths, Khat’ and tea, operating small shops and selling milk while others are involved in casual labor.
Hawa Abdi describes her condition: She says that she lives in a deplorable situation and her earnings is not enough to cover the basic needs of her children and herself.
“Since I lost my husband 6 years ago in a war that occurred in the region, my children have no bright future since I cannot afford their education and in future they risk living in this kind of life that we are living in now” she said.
This forces female children to be left at home, while favoring one or two male children to attend school and at the same time denying girls the opportunity to be educated and lead their own life. The reason behind this mode of thinking is the belief that girls’ education is a waste of time and that she will be married off anyway to other clans.
NPA only NGO in the region
In response to the problems faced by women in the region, the Norwegian People’s Aid Somalia Programme, the only international agency stationed in Sool, Sanaag and Cayn, regions initiated various projects to help the locals and women in particular. NPA is funding the only local women organization ‘Hanaqaad Women Organization’ in the region and executed several projects targeting women. One of the notable projects funded by NPA is the construction of Sool women resource centre that is a significant pillar for women in Las Anod town since it houses primary school for girls, a vocational trainings skills centre for women. More importantly Hanaqaad Women Organization is the only organization that articulates vehemently for the rights of women in the region.
Other components of the projects funded by the agency are vocational training skills. Around 200 women have so far acquired skills such tailoring, handcraft, cooking and hospitality and numeracy skills to enable them become self reliant. Also various participatory hygiene and sanitation trainings were conducted in the last two years to good number of women in order to boost the level of hygiene and sanitation status at household level as well as in market places such as milk and meat markets in Lasanod town. Community development training was also one of the projects’ components where eradication of FGM and HIV/AIDS was given a key priority in which women were the main targets despite inclusion of men to also participate since they are also a party to realization of this to happen.
In trying to transform the lives of women IDPs in the Sool region and in particular in Las Anod and its neighboring villages, NPA also funded various projects where thousands of women IDPs were given transitional shelters, household amenities, plastic jericans, blankets and nets. This support enabled them to improve their immediate needs for their makeshift houses. More importantly NPA through Hanaqaad Women’s Organization is organizing and training market women. They are organized into groups with their own leaders for them to articulate their concerns collectively and are also given trainings to make them understand how to manage their small scale businesses. One component of this training is to help them do simple book keeping.
Through their hard work and their role in the community by supporting their families the women in this region Sool have increased their level of respect and are more aware of their socio-economic situation in society. “We are trying to turn every hurdle into an opportunity to ensure food is on the table for our children but we are far from living in a decent life”, says Zamzam Ali. She is one of the small scale business women in Las Anod.
“Education for our children is our main challenge, but we can’t even afford food and clothingfor them and we are facing other challenges such as lack of clean drinking water, lack of shelter, poor hygiene and sanitation and many other”, says Zamzam, and continues: “We are grateful to Norwegian People’s Aid that is helping us very much and we appeal to other well wishers and international agencies either to support the work of NPA or come in the region to join NPA in notable work it’s doing for desperate and vulnerable population in Sool region”.