THE UNTOLD STORY OF WOMEN H
istory often downplays a woman’s role and her contribution to society. Somalia’s history is no different: it focuses on unified stories of successful men, yet for women, different identities emerge depending on clan and region.
A woman’s involvement in society often reflects her sense of responsibility, which changes during her lifetime. By documenting the stories of Somali women, one can see that a woman’s experiences are not collective and each individual’s experience is unique within a particular historical and social context. Women are also typically associated with traditional female activity and employment – mother, carer, wife, cook, nurse. Women are rarely in positions of political or economic power.
Suad is not the kind of person to say no to a challenge: she plans to open the first women only gym in Somaliland’s capital.
The Somalia Stability Fund is a multi-donor fund which aims to change that. It is supporting the strengthening of women’s leadership and participation in decision making and supporting women in the private sector As an information technology graduate through job placement schemes and youth and previous owner of a kindergarten, Suad entrepreneur grants. We hear from Suad Ismail, is one of many young Somalis trying to break a young entrepreneur aiming to change the the mould by starting up a business of her own. traditional image of Somali women. But Hargeisa is not conducive to business. The unemployment rate for 14-29 year olds is 67%, a statistic that becomes even more worrying when over 70% of the population is under 35”. Suad’s enthusiasm and business acumen may not be enough to keep her ventures alive. Unlike start-up companies in the UK, Somali businesses do not have easy access to loans and support. In an atmosphere of financial uncertainty where banks are few and skittish, starting up a functioning corporation and finding the right staff is a huge challenge. This lack of financial literacy and capital is being addressed by projects such as the Somalia Stability Fund’s Youth Enterprise Initiative. The initiative, led by a consortium of Somali companies, is providing over 200 small businesses with financial training and selecting a smaller group of 15 to receive loans and further support. The project ensures that the young Somali entrepreneurs know that the loans are Halal (in accordance with Islamic financial rules) and are part of a legitimate operation that will monitor and support their growing enterprises. The risk involved with starting up a Somali business for Suad is a painful reality. This new initiative will provide more women like Suad with the confidence needed to let their companies flourish and help to improve the homeland that they will never stop believing in. “I have high hopes for the future,” says Suad, “soon things will change for the better”.