Friday, July 8, 2016

UK aid: Dreams of education become a reality in Somaliland

(Care International)- Maryan Hirsi Mohamoud Shire is a 48-year-old woman from El-Afweyn district, Sanaag region, Somaliland. Until recently, Maryan, her husband and their three teenage daughters – Deeqa, Rooda and Farah – lived in Dararwayne village. Here, Maryan and her family reared 30 sheep and goats, earning a small income by selling milk and meat.

Unable to continue in school

Deeqa and Rooda studied up to grade seven in Dararwayne primary school. Sadly, they were unable to continue with their education because Daraweyne primary school classes end at grade seven, whereas a full cycle of primary schooling ends at grade eight. This left the girls with no choice but to use their schooling hours to carry out household chores like cooking and cleaning.

Maryan herself also only schooled up to grade seven. This was due to the collapse of the central government in 1991 which destroyed all government schools and public institutions.

“When I realised that my daughters couldn’t continue their education, I wanted to move to El-Afweyn,” explains Maryan. El-Afweyn district has secondary schools where Maryan’s daughters could continue their education.

A difficult choice

However, Maryan worried that the move would have a negative impact on her family’s livelihood, making it hard for them to afford the necessary school materials. “It would be difficult because our family livelihood is dependent on Dararwayne village where we can rear livestock. Also, my husband – who has not been through school – did not share the same desire and refused to move for the sake of our daughters’ education. I was so unhappy to shatter my daughters’ dreams and my own; I really felt helpless."

UK aid-funded project provides a solution

In February 2014, Maryan heard about Kobcinta Waxbarashada Gabdhaha (Somali Girls’ Education Promotion Project – SOMGEP) from a teacher. Funded by UK aid and implemented by CARE International and local partner Candlelight for Health, Education and Environment, the project is increasing the number of girls in rural areas of Somaliland, Puntland and Galmudug who access, receive and complete a quality education.

In El-Afweyn district, SOMGEP is supporting 13 schools (12 primary, one secondary) with Community Education Committee training, gender and child protection awareness, provision of teaching and learning materials and literacy and numeracy training.

Maryan was so excited about the project. She informed her husband, and again tried to persuade him that they should move to El-Afweyn. The promise of support from an aid organisation and another from his wife to cover the family’s livelihood costs was enough to convince him.

Making a new start

Leaving their familiar village behind, Maryan and her family travelled 65km on rough roads to settle in El-Afweyn. Here, they rented one room separated into different living spaces by red polythene sheets. They had no latrine of their own so they had to share their neighbours’.

The move had a negative impact on the family’s income, but this did not deter Maryan. She worked hard and started up a small teashop near to their home to support her family. She also joined a women’s Village Savings and Loan Association (VSLA) established by CARE to promote economic empowerment – a group of women who save money together and take a small loan from those savings if and when the need arises. In April 2014, Maryan enrolled Deeqa and Rooda in grade 8 and Farah in grade 6.

Leader and role model

Maryan is now a well-known woman leader in El-Afweyn district. In fact, the head teacher of El-Afweyn primary school recognises Maryan as one of the community members who have contributed to the increased number of girls to the current enrolment of 451 girls and 581 boys. She is a role model to the grassroots communities; something which is repeatedly emphasised by the head teacher and Community Education Committee members during community mobilisations.

While Maryan admits that it has not been easy to make these sacrifices at personal and family level, Maryan always dreamed she could create a better future for her girls and the girls in her community. Maryan continues to transform the community through motivational talks and her determination.

Thanks to SOMGEP – and in Deeqa, Rooda and Farah's case, their mother – many girls across Somaliland, Puntland and Galmudug can now beneļ¬t from access to quality education.

Story and photos by Fadimata Wallet Inorene (Initiative Manager, SOMGEP) and CARE International – Somalia/Somaliland