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A Woman With a Grit

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.”

This article is part of a writing assignment for Voices of Our Future a program of World Pulse that provides rigorous digital media and citizen journalism training for grassroots women leaders. World Pulse lifts and unites the voices of women from some of the most unheard regions of the world.

Comments

Dear
I´m so glad with your choice because I have always believe that a good teacher has the power to change the world. My dad came from a very poor town from the poorest family thanks to a good teacher he was able to discover your destiny is not limited by the conditions you're living in.
I praise all teachers who believe in good education,

Klaudia González

Deqa's picture

Many thanks

Thank you so much for reading and commenting on my post. I definitely agree with you, A good teacher has the power to change the world indeed.
Deqa

pelamutunzi's picture

i agree

yes it is true good teachers not only change a child's world they also make the world a better place for all. she is a teacher that i salute and for her to remain humble is really commendable. well done for your choice. i hope all the problems you previously said you were experiencing are resolved soon. we also stand with you and support you in all you do. i pray for peace in your country

we may be powerless to stop an injustice but let there never be a time we fail to protest.
regards
pela

Deqa's picture

Many thanks

Thank you dear for reading and commenting on my post. I thought I was alone in the struggle against female stereotyping when it comes to being a teacher and educating the young generation but surely she opened my eyes and reminded me that others have struggled through this path and achieved success with perseverance. It was surely exciting for me to meet this lady. I believe in education and I know it is the fastest way to change the world.
Again thank you for the support my dear.
Deqa

Your choice of Shamso is commendable, given that she is a Government official and at the same time a social activist. It is obvious that she earned her enviable reputation through perseverance. She is truly a teacher at heart who is worth emulating.

Cheers,
Greengirl

Deqa's picture

Many thanks

Thank you my dear for reading and commenting on my post. Your support is always uplifting. I chose her because she showed me the path I could take and I definitely believe in education reform and it was such a great experience to find a role model.
Deqa

Iryna's picture

Smart and brave

Shamso didn't stop moving after she fulfilled her dream to become a teacher. She works to improve educational system and support women. This is a very strong, smart and brave woman.

Beautiful and touching article, Deqa,
Warmest greetings,
Iryna

Deqa's picture

Many thanks

Thank you my dear for reading and commenting on my post. She certainly is strong, smart, and brave woman whom I aspire to become.
Regards
Deqa

JaniceW's picture

Strong profile

You did a great job of giving me a sense of who Shamso is leading me to feel as if I know her. You also provided great background information that gave me with an understanding of what motivates her. Lastly, the strong ending left the reader admiring her strength of character.

Well done.

Deqa's picture

Many thanks

Thank you my dear for reading my post and leaving a kind comment. I was trying to give a chronicle of events because Somalia is a gray area and ever since the civil war in 1991 nobody really knows what's happening here apart from famine, war, diseases, and hardship. I wanted to show the good things that were happening and the normal day-to-day activities such going to school, and trying to get a job and the like. I am so glad you understood it.
Your comment gave me a confidence boost and I thank you for that.
Deqa

Katherine Okerlund's picture

Again

I'm so proud of my correspondent <3 woot woot

Deqa's picture

Many thanks

Thank you dear for the awesome support and guidance
Deqa

libudsuroy's picture

Dear Deqa, Your story gifts

Dear Deqa,
Your story gifts me with many lessons. Here is an ideal teacher that is sure to teach not only the basic Rs but also the basic human values that are important for the survival of humankind.
Great work, Deqa!

Blessings,
libudsuroy/Lina Sagaral Reyes
Mindanao, The Philippines

''Every Day is a Journey and the Journey itself is Home.'' (Matsuo Basho)

Deqa's picture

Many thanks

Thank you my dear for reading my piece and leaving encouraging and kind comment. It means a lot coming from an awesome writer like you. I am glad I could connect her story to a wider audience of women.

clarices's picture

Trailblazing Women

What an wonderful example Shamso is setting, not only for women in Somalia, but for women throughout the world who follow their hearts and their vision to support education. Deqa, thank you for sharing such an inspirational story.

Deqa's picture

Many thanks

Thank you my dear for reading my work and leaving encouraging comment. She inspired me and I am glad she inspires woman across the globe.
Deqa

Maura Bogue's picture

Good Job!

Great work on your first profile! You did a really good job at providing background information to provide context.

In the future, make sure not to include yourself in a profile in order to maintain objectivity. For example, at the beginning, you talk a lot about your impressions of Shamso and how you came to write about her, which puts yourself in the piece.

Overall, great work!

Best,
Maura

Deqa's picture

Many thanks

Thank you my dear for the kind comments and the constructive criticism. I will surely take notes on your guidance and enhance my writing accordingly.
Deqa

Susan Alvey's picture

INspiring story

Deqa - This was a great choice for a story. I would love to meet Shamso some day - I think she has a lot to teach us all.
Susan

Deqa's picture

Many thanks

Thank you dear for the awesome support and guidance.
Deqa

Y's picture

Our world will only change

Our world will only change through the power of teacher/mentors. Thank you for this powerful story, Deqa.
Blessings to you.
Yvette

Y

Deqa's picture

Many thanks

True that. Our world will only change through the power of teachers and mentors. Thank you my dear for reading my work and leaving kind comment.
Deqa

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