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Somali women breadwinners

Wednesday April 19, 2017
BY Michelle Delaney

Small business grants are turning Somali women’s lives around in Mogadishu, as they become entrepreneurs and start their own businesses.

Somalia’s conflict forced 50-year-old Hawa and her family from their home in Baidoa in 2005. A family of farmers, they were badly affected when criminals robbed all their animals during the insecurity. Hawa fled to the capital, Mogadishu, with her seven children, as their  farmland was no long productive and the area was no longer safe.

City of dreams

Mogadishu hosts close to half a million displaced people. Many fled their homelands in search of a better life, during the famine that struck Somalia in 2011. Others like Hawa fled insecurity, which has plagued the country for decades.

The impact of such a long-drawn conflict means that 73 per cent of the population lives below the poverty line, on about US$1.25 per day. Over a million people across the country are internally displaced; another million are refugees in neighbouring countries.

Starting up

After bouncing from one displacement camp to another, the family finally settled and Hawa found a casual job. With her husband missing, Hawa became the main breadwinner for the family of nine. The job paid very little, and providing for the family was never easy.

The Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) provided humanitarian assistance to families in the displacement camp Hawa lived in. One programme provided small cash grants to help women start small businesses and support themselves.

Hawa was chosen, and was given a small grant which she used to construct a kiosk. Today, she sells vegetables, fruit and other food at her shop.

We discussed everything that’s affecting us, and how we can overcome the challenges we face every day.
Hawa, 50, mother of seven and entrepreneur.
“I thank NRC, it was by Allah’s grace they spotted me sitting under small table selling little vegetable to meet my family’s needs,” recalls Hawa. “I haven’t been aware of my husband’s whereabouts for 4 years. I don’t know whether he is alive or dead. But now I’ve been able to build this kiosk and provide for my children.”

The income-generating programme run by NRC helps 50 women in Mogadishu start their own businesses. It provides each woman with US$500 as a grant, in the hopes that their new business with generate much more income after time. The programme is supported by the Norwegian government.

“I was even able to undergo an eye operation that I badly needed,” said Hawa. “I used the money from my business to help me with my medical costs.”

A new sisterhood

The programme also helps to skill-up women so their businesses grow and are successful. Bringing the female entrepreneurs together also serves to create a support network.

“I had an exciting and passionate discussion with the other woman during the training,” Hawa says. “They were open and warm. We discussed everything that’s affecting us, and how we can overcome the challenges we face every day.”

NRC has been working in Somalia since 2004, providing support to people including food, education, water, sanitation and legal assistance.

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