Positive attitude and high self esteem make you a successful warrior
“If you have a goal to reach you should try to ignore what others have to say about you or your clan. If you work hard and are patient, nothing will stop you from realizing your dreams and desires.” Farhia Hersi – councilor in Galkaio, Somalia.
Farhia Hersi – a single mother of nine kids (seven daughters and two sons) is from "Madhiban”, one of the traditionally marginalized groups in Somalia. Due to her determined struggle, she can be a role model to many women around the world who want to be successful.
Two years after her high school graduation, Hersi got a scholarship in 1987 and went to Sa’udi Arabia to study nursing and later worked as a nurse in some clinics and hospitals there. In 2000, she decided to return to Somalia as she was having family problems which ended in a divorce. Going back was not that easy as she was a single mother, having to raise her kids all alone. Further, she had no financial support from anyone else.
Hersi joined Galkaio Education Center for Peace and Development based in Galkaio, Somalia as a teacher in 2001 and later became one of the supervisors. She also underwent training on women’s empowerment from the center which helped her overcome her barriers.
Somalia is a male dominated society which believes that women are supposed to be at home and cannot participate outside activities. As she describes the difficulties she faces everyday while performing her duties as a councilor or social worker Hersi says: “We have a complex culture which believes that women cannot represent the clan. But we have to struggle and I have to bear whatever men say. Being a councilor I am representing the rest of the community and especially women".
"All women everywhere in this world share one common thing and it is that they have been considered as subordinates. Men should encourage and participate in women’s empowerment and consider them as their other half.”
When one of her daughters once tried to drop out from school because of the other students’ ill-treatment of her clan, Hersi told her: “Wherever you go you still belong to your clan. There is only one way you can defeat the students whenever they start talking badly about your clan. Tell them that you all belong to different clans and no one is superior to the other except for those who fully obey their Lord and will be rewarded thereafter. If they want to criticize you as being dull or ugly, well, let us see if you are. Convey to your detractors that you are proud to be from your clan”. Now the daughter is in the twelfth grade.
There are some horrific traditional practices within the Somali community where by there is no intermarriage between Madhiban and the other clans. Owing to the traditional isolation of Madhiban people, Hersi founded a Minority Center in 2005 based in Galkaio. It provides free education for internally displaced persons, marginalized people and other vulnerable persons. The center offers primary classes in the morning and adult classes in the afternoon. She invited educated persons from this clan regardless of gender or age to teach at the school and be role models to the young generation.
Hersi believes that raising awareness in the community about equality through the media and training will help eliminate the stigma related to Madhiban clan. “It is just because of ignorance about the community’s equality why most clans constantly dishonor Madhiban people. Otherwise, each clan will consider the rest as equal members of the community.”
Hersi is the CEO of Women and Child Development Organization which she established in 2003 in Galkaio. It advocates for children, internally displaced persons, marginalized groups and all vulnerable people. It also raises awareness about sexual and gender based violence and all kinds of violence against women. She is a member and co-founder of Mudug Child Protection Network based in Galkaio from 2004. It advocates for children’s rights and their education and development. Hersi is also the chairperson of Mudug Sexual Exploitation and Abuse Network based in Galkaio since 2009. It builds awareness about human rights violation and abuse of power. She is also a member of many other networks.
Hersi was a councilor at district level in Goldogob, Somalia from April 2008 to August 2009. At present she has reached Mudug’s regional level. She is a member of Galkaio’s city council permanent committee.
Hersi has two plans for the Galkaio community. One is to establish a nursery school as there are no such schools in Galkaio. The other is to start a large beauty salon for young girls from both the host community and migrants from southern and central Somalia.
“I want to establish a nursery school for children between three to five years whose parents go to work. They grow up as if they are street children who never received parental care".
"Having such schools will let them grow up while they are educated, have received parental care and know how to live with the rest of the community. Their mothers will not worry about leaving their kids behind. And the children will enjoy the company of their teachers and peers”.
She is also planning to open a large beauty center to train and employ young girls including those who got married at an early age and have been divorced, widowed or those whose husbands have left them and have nowhere else to go.
“These girls face many problems as they do not have anyone to take care of them. They might become sex workers because of the odd jobs and the difficult times they face.
Hersi believes that commitment and a positive attitude helps you reach your goals.
“I have faced many problems and had so many barriers to overcome but if I quit who will be the role model for our young generations?” she asks.
This article is part of a writing assignment for Voices of Our Future, which is providing rigorous web 2.0 and new media training for 30 emerging women leaders. We are speaking out for social change from some of the most unheard regions of the world.