Passport to Africa: Investing in Somalia's Female Leaders

In Somalia, USADF is training female youth in well-sought professions that require gender-appropriate vendors, such as wedding photography and catering.

In Somalia, USADF is training female youth in well-sought professions that require gender-appropriate vendors, such as wedding photography and catering.

In Somalia, Shadia, married at a young age, resolved to live a life of obsolescence in rural Somaliland.  In Somalia, where over 60 percent of youth is unemployed, women often bear the brunt of extreme poverty and unemployment. However, one day, Shadia heard a radio announcement about a video training program and her life was forever changed.

 

One of USADF’s local implementing partners seeks to engage, mentor and provide job skills training for young Somali men and women. USADF is one of the few organizations on the ground in Somalia able to meet the need for job skills training for unemployed youth and women. Our community based, African-led approach guides our efforts to engage Somali youth with real and practical opportunities for employment and entrepreneurship.

 

USADF invests in sectors such as videography, journalism, mobile phone repair, food services, early childhood education, carpentry, glass installation, fishing, electrical, plumbing, masonry, auto repair, and beekeeping. In sectors such as IT, tailoring, office management, commodities trading, cosmetology and beekeeping, women make up more than half the number of trainees. 

 

Shadia was accepted to a two-year videography training course. With her new skills, she found a job working for Puntland TV as a camerawoman. But Shadia did not stop there—with a new sense of independence and empowerment, she decided to run for election in local government. “In my society, women’s participation in political fields is very limited due to cultural barriers,” says Shadia. She says that her family and local tribal leaders, who openly rejected the idea of a women representing their tribe, were the biggest obstacles to her dream of becoming a political leader.

 

Female graduate of the USADF-funded journalism training program in Somalia

Female graduate of the USADF-funded journalism training program in Somalia

Through perseverance and hard work, she managed to garner enough votes from local women to enter and win the race of city councilor of Bossaso. Shadia's star continues to rise. She is a mentor for other youth and underserved individuals in her community, and known as a leader and inspiration among women who also dream big. Shadia describes her journey as “unemployed to a decision-maker,” and credits USADF for her flourishing career as a politician, reporter, and community leader. Shadia said, "The USADF training program empowered me to become a decision-maker and make my own destiny. I felt empowered not only to break cultural barriers, but political ones too.”


Since January 2012, USADF has funded thirteen local Somali NGOs with the goal of placing Somali youth aged 18 to 35 in permanent jobs. Videography is but one sector where USADF is training female youth—journalism, wedding photography and catering are also a well-sought professions due to the traditional practices that require gender-appropriate vendors. With USADF funding, a local implementing partner piloted a journalism training course in which over 8 women out of 32 graduates of the program are now prime-time anchors throughout the Puntland TV and radio service, including Zainab, who reports for a national Somali network. Another graduate of the program is the only female broadcast technician in the Somaliland region.

“The USADF training program empowered me to become a decision-maker and make my own destiny. I felt empowered not only to break cultural barriers, but political ones too.”

 

For us, each letter in ADF represents our approach towards development. ADF translates to Accountable, Direct, and Frontier. Our work in Somalia is a prime example of how we are innovative and ‘frontier’ in solving community challenges with community-owned solutions. The Agency prides itself on treating each grantee as a partner in their journey towards prosperity and reaching beyond traditional development assistance boundaries to benefit rural communities and underserved populations in unique ways. Abdiaziz Mohamed, director of a USADF-funded local NGO, says, “Zainab and Shadia are the product of USADF's successful intervention in Somalia, and our hard work in the process of mentoring young people that has made them and other women such successful people.”