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A women with a grit

Hello all,
I have been awfully quiet the past month due to so many issues, internet issues caused by sand storm in the summer, too much work with my supervisor been absent, and political tensions that limit the movements with the elections coming soon, clashes are feared to occur, so it was such a wild ride.
Both my mentors were awesome and they supported me throughout the period. Katherin was phenomenal in improving my writing skills. We are happy with the way it turned out, but I would like to get your feedback and constructive criticism if any.
Thank you guys

Shamso is joyous, charismatic, and friendly with a contagious smile. Our initial meeting was at her house, a simple home with 4 rooms and a front yard, just the typical Bossaso old home design which indicated it was built in the early 90s when architects were a luxury beyond reach to most Puntlanders. I was fascinated by this woman because she didn’t satisfy the belief of Somalis that government officials are arrogant and self absorbed. The simplicity of her life is contradictory to the lifestyle of the rich government officials in Somalia who own big beautiful houses.
Meeting Shamso was a dreamlike situation. I was brainstorming for an ideal subject for my assignment and I discussed my search for a female activist to interview with Fatima, a friend of mine who is a manager of an international NGO called Médecins du Monde. We identified possible subjects together but she strongly suggested an activist that she thought was influential in her quest to transform the education in Puntland.
The suggested candidate was a female government official whom I found uplifting and inspiring to meet. I was anxious and worried at the same time because government officials in Somalia hardly agree to interviews for fear of bad press. Fortunately Fatima secured a meeting with Shamso.
It was surreal to get a chance to meet and interview Shamso. Most Somalis are skeptic about journalists, so I assured her that my intention is not to misquote, misrepresent, and misuse the information she gives me but merely to capture and share her story with the world in order to promote female leadership.
Shamso, 47, is the Regional Education Supervisor for Bari State and also an activist for education rights for all. As a child, Shamso had higher chances of getting education unlike many girls her age because she grew up in Mogadishu with middle class parents who educated both their daughters and sons.
Her career plans in the education sector started at the age of 7 and her dream was to become a teacher. Unfortunately, most Somalis don’t categorise being a teacher as a top choice career plan and they believe the only careers worse than a teacher is a state policeman and a traffic controller, therefore her only support system was her foreign teachers who encouraged her career aspirations. Shamso knew the path she had chosen was difficult but with her challenging nature she wasn’t going to give up or get discouraged to pursue her dreams.
Shamso decided against her family’s wishes to join the Teacher Training course at Lafole in Mogadishu in 1986, to realize her dream of becoming a teacher. Her family entertained her desire to study teaching but they never gave her consent to actually take up teaching as a career because they wanted their daughter to become a doctor or an engineer.
Nevertheless, Shamso successfully finished her studies in 1990. Unfortunately, a year later the civil war broke in Mogadishu and her family decided to flee to Bossaso. The journey wasn’t short of struggles and hardships but they made it to Bossaso unharmed.
In the early 90s, education wasn’t a priority for the Pastoral community of Puntland but the civil-war fleeing returnees in Bossaso managed to reopen the schools in 1992. Shamso saw an opportunity to use her skills in teaching but the task proved to be almost impossible since female teachers were unheard of and she struggled to land a job.
Out of the many rejections she faced, one particular incident has had an impact on her resolve to strive to abolish the gender stereotypes. In 1993, Shamso went to a school in Bossaso where two female teachers were working, assuming that the school was tolerant and accepting to women. The school principal had an unwelcoming attitude. Initially, he assumed she was a parent and didn’t realize she was looking for a job. When she informed him of her intention to become a teacher, the man laughed sarcastically and said “Hire another female!!! You must be joking; I’m even going to fire the other two female teachers we have here” Shocked and in disbelief Shamso walked out of the door.
She repeatedly went to the mayor’s office to demand her rights and fight against gender discrimination. Her passion impressed the mayor and he facilitated her recruitment at the only public school then, Haji Mire Primary school, funded by Unesco Peer in 1993. This became the beginning of her journey towards education reform. She proved to be a committed, passionate teacher, and a great leader.
Few months later, she was chosen to become the Principle of Haji Mire primary School in Bossaso by the Unesco Peer in an effort to support female leadership. Soon after, all sorts of education reform jobs followed starting with Teacher Training Officer with Unesco Peer. From 2000 to 2008, She worked with other humanitarian organisations as school supervisor including Unicef and Africa70 to oversee the teaching environment and enhance the expertise level of teachers by providing coaching and counselling, as well as identifying their training needs and focusing on capacity building activities. She visited schools to assess the teachers’ competence, observe relevance of learning materials, and the overall quality.
Shamso increased the quality of education in Bossaso schools which led the Ministry of Education to approach her to become the Bari Regional Education Supervisor in 2009. This offer was a testament to her success.
Shamso says to me “No man will welcome you willingly to take a seat next to him; you must strive to prove your leadership skills and fight for your rights as a woman.” I was simply uplifted by her words, what a powerful sentiment. Her determination to provide support and motivation to women even during an interview blew me away. Such devotion for the advocacy of women’s rights!
Out of all her accomplishments, I realized that Shamso values teaching the most because she says “being a teacher is in my heart, and I will always cherish my teaching years.”


Iryna's picture

A beautiful story

That's a beautiful and so optimistic story, Deqa! This woman, Shamso, impressed me a lot with her courage and insistance. Your writing is very light and I enjoyed reading. What I would like to see more? It's only suggestions. I would like to read more quotes from Shamso. Maybe, if it will be out of words limit, you could cut in the beginning, where you say how did you choose her.
Shamso is a great woman and for sure deserves to be the hero of this story!

Thank you for sharing,
Good luck in finishing the text!
Warmest wishes,

Deqa's picture

Many thanks

Thank you so much my dear Iryna for taking the time to comment on my post and giving me feedback. You are so right as you guessed the word limit is difficult to allow more information.
Again you are awesome and I wish you all the best in your assignment.

Sarah Whitten-Grigsby's picture

Thank You, Deqa !

This is an excellent piece of work and your admiration for your subject and her work is clear and well-explained.

Shamso is a terrific choice for your interview and I applaud her desperately-needed work on behalf of women and those so deserving of education who might otherwise be deprived of it.

I applaud both Shamso, for her work, and you, Deqa, for this Module 1 assignment.

- Sarah

Sarah Whitten-Grigsby

Deqa's picture

Many thanks

Thank you so much my dear Sarah for taking the time to read my post and give me feedback. I am humbled by your kind words and your encouragement is uplifting.

Katherine Okerlund's picture

woot woot

proud of my correspondent <3

Deqa's picture

Aww thanks

I'm honored.Thank you my dear for the awesome support. You Rock <3

Very strange! I mean here in the Maldives, teaching is predominately done by women and there it seems totally the other way around.
Here it is seen as a very ordinary job - a sad reality.

It is also strange to see parents dictating what their children should become.

The one quote that stands out is:
“No man will welcome you willingly to take a seat next to him; you must strive to prove your leadership skills and fight for your rights as a woman.” I can very well associate with that and believe that there is a lot that we need to do to break through the glass ceiling.

Great post.
I guess you could reduce on the words by eliminating the sections on how you identified Shamso as your profile subject. The article needs to be about her, her role, her activism...
I guess you will be editing it out for the final submission.

Good luck :)


Deqa's picture

Many thanks

Thank you so much my dear for taking the time to read and give feedback on my post.
It's awesome that you have generally widespread female teachers, I hope soon enough the situation in Somalia will be the same. Yeah but her case was some 2 decades ago, right now things have changed and parents let their children decide what they want to with their life in education aspect, but they still control them in social aspects like marriage. But things are changing and soon enough parents will let their children decide for themselves in every aspect.
The part how I came to meet her was suggested by both my mentors so I will stick with it I suppose but thank you for the feedback.

Wish you all the best with your article.

Katherine Okerlund's picture

thank you

hi Aminah, on my side I suggested Deqa to show the reader how she went to the process of finding Shamso as a subject because even tho Deqa is part of an NGO, her role there is not directly involved with advocacy and she just couldn't describe in the text that she just knocked on Shamso' door out of the blue and Shamso agreed to an interview. I understand the profile has to be about the subject but the quest for the subject matters, in my opinion, especially in this assignment for WP because we all know and admire so many women at the same time that picking just one can be an article on its own. So to show that Deqa was able to water it down to this amazing person out of the sea of wonders in Somalia in just a few words, with the help of another women from an NGO herself it's a tiny refreshing hint that change is happening in Puntland.

Thank you for feedback

Aminah's picture

No worries Katherine. I just

No worries Katherine.
I just recalled a little bit about the advice during the conference call to try to keep the interviewer part as small as possible while focusing on, and bringing out the interviewee. Your advice is also quite appropriate no doubt about that. :)

The little bit that got to me was actually talking about the profile in the light of the "assignment".
That's just my humble observation.

But I am sure you know best. :)


Katherine Okerlund's picture

Oh God; Don't worry, I'm

Oh God; Don't worry, I'm sorry if I came off rude or anything like that. I think I speak for everyone when I say we love everyone giving feedback on the assignments, it is such a great learning experience and your input is so so so valuable. Have a great day!

Greengirl's picture

Nice One Deqa

I particularly like your choice of Shamso, who is a proof that a true leader will always stir change irrespective of the surrounding circumstance(s). Her story is well told, however, you could make do with paragraphs so your words are not cramped up.

Well done.



dikshya's picture

great going

Dear Deqa,

Congratulations on completing your first assignment. Your writing is as inspired as Shamso's work. Keep up the good work.

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