Somali teen’s venture in rare field attracts support of international firm

Monday April 24 2017

Somali teenager Nasra Haji during a typical day at her garage in Mogadishu. Most female Somalis do not venture in this field. PHOTO | COURTESY

Somali teenager Nasra Haji during a typical day at her garage in Mogadishu. Most female Somalis do not venture in this field. PHOTO | COURTESY 

By OBED SIMIYU
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Teenager Nasra Haji has ventured into a world most female Somalis would dare not, mechanics.

She wakes up every morning and goes to her garage in Mogadishu where she has attracted many clients thanks to her hard work.

"This has always been my passion. I love cars and I have always wanted to know about them. That is why I decided to become a mechanic," says Nasra.

"This is not an ordinary job for ladies, but it is what I have always wanted to do. I am happy I have made my dream into a reality,” she adds.

A youths’ leader, Suaad Raage, has drawn her inspiration from Nasra. "This gem is the first female mechanic in Somalia and is an inspiration to all," she tweeted.

Nasra is among the youths in Somalia who have reason to believe in empowerment following the fourth TEDxMogadishu, which was held this month. Nasra Haji, was one of the inspirational speakers at the event.

TOUCHING STORY

Money transfer company, Dahabshiil was one of the main sponsors of the event which is aimed at creating opportunities for the youths, giving them a platform to express their creativity and courage and boosting their chances of being self-reliant.

Nasra’s story touched Dahabshiil’s Chief Executive Officer, Abdirashid Duale, who attended TEDx.

Dahabshiil has promised to help her, enabling her to develop her career as a mechanic.

"She is part of our vision of helping youths achieve their goals in life," said Mr Duale.

Nasra is just one of many young Somalis and others across the region who have become empowered due to support from the money transfer firm.

Dahabshiil, through remittances from the diaspora, has ensured that the Somali youths, women and the elderly continue to build their economy back home.

The remittances are particularly important at this time of devastating drought, the worst in at least two decades.

PATH TO RECOVERY

Dahabshiil’s services also help rebuild the country, and provide investment for its development.

It provides financial services, including banking, as well as telecommunications across the region.

TEDxMogadishu offered proof that the war-weary capital is on the path to recovery and even normalcy.

It is organised by the inspirational young activist, Ilwad Elman, of the Elman Peace and Human Rights Centre in Mogadishu.

Her role in TEDx was central as she not only brought together all these young Somalis, but presented the event with great eloquence.

TEDx is a spin-off of the popular TED (Technology, Entertainment, and Design) talks in California, with one major caveat — the participants must organize the event.

RAVAGES OF WAR

The aim of any TED talk is to “spread ideas” in the form of short, powerful talks.

There have been TEDx events in Baghdad, Kabul, Tripoli and Hanoi, cities that have been brought to their knees by the ravages of war and are in the process of rebuilding.

This year’s event was held in Mogadishu’s Peace Hotel owned by Somali businessman, Bashir Osman Yusuf.

The theme was “Iska Wax U Qabso” which translates as “Do it for yourself”, a message to Somalis to get actively involved in creating a better life for themselves and future generations. It emphasises self-reliance but also cooperation with one another.

Social media users used the hashtag #iskaawaxuqabso to relay the TEDxMogadishu message to thousands of people who watched the event live via internet stream. It was even live-streamed to the Ifo Camp in Dadaab with the help of Film Aid Kenya.

This year’s speakers included Samira Mohamed Abdirahman, a trained chef and baker who learned to make cheese from scratch in Sweden.

PRODUCTION FACILITY

She returned to Somalia to find that there was only imported cheese and butter. Samira took it upon herself to fill the void and began working with local farmers to source for the milk that she uses to make her cheese, butter and cream products.

Recently, she built a production facility in Mogadishu and a distribution network that provides cheese to many of the local restaurants. She told the crowd that one of the greatest benefits of her business venture is that she is a job-creator.

“It is so encouraging to see Somalis from the diaspora and those who never left the country coming together at TEDx to talk about their experiences and to inspire others to work to promote peace, development and hope,” said Mr Duale.

Vik Sohonie, one of the two non-Somali speakers at the event is a musical historian.

As the founder of Ostinato Records, he searches the world for the “music of misunderstood cultures” and then digitises the music in order to preserve it forever.

His work has taken him to Haiti, Cape Verde and now Somalia.

After digitalising close to 10,000 original recordings from the 70s and 80s, Vik has created the largest anthology of Somali music.

CREATIVE MINDS

"The classical tapes have been dispatched to Djibouti and Somaliland to preserve them,” he says.

Medical doctors, Mohamed Yusuf and Lul Mohamed, spoke vividly of what it feels like to be on the front lines of war and disease.

The talks hosted a number of creative minds who spoke of how, through their individual feats and efforts, they are changing the landscape of Mogadishu and Somalia.

Make-up artist, Maryan Ahmedey, who stopped receiving formal education at the age of 10, is now the leading make-up artist in Mogadishu with a long list of clients and a full schedule.

Abbas Siraji, the youngest member of the Somali cabinet as Minister of Public Works, detailed his rise from a student in the largest refugee camp in the world, Dadaab in Kenya, to becoming a Member of Parliament and now a Minister.

Although the security situation in Mogadishu remains precarious, gatherings such as TEDx reveal a glimmer of hope and spreads inspiration, ideas and shows the world another picture of Somalia than what usually dominates news headlines.