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Success in Somalia: From community health worker to business woman

In an area of conflict and high gender inequality, Kaafiya’s story is an inspiring one. She spreads health messages to women in her community and has now managed to start her own successful small business.

Kaafiya in her shop Kaafiya in her shop

Kaafiya is very busy, yet she manages to keep on smiling. Customers are coming and going in her shop. Her small business in Luuq district of the Gedo region of Somalia is thriving. A lot has changed for her in just a few short months.

Her small shop serves approximately 1,000 people in her village and an aura of happiness and fulfilment can be felt as she goes about serving her customers with a broad smile.

Three years ago, Kaafiya could not imagine that she would be running a successful business. She says that it is a dream come true.

Gender inequality and illiteracy rates are very high among girls and women in Somalia. A vast majority have fewer opportunities in the labour market and have lower economic empowerment when compared to men.

However, this has been changing in recent years. Thanks to projects like Trócaire’s ‘Somali Advocates for Health and Nutrition’ (SAHAN) project, there are now opportunities for more Somali women to actively participate in development issues. This is giving them jobs that were traditionally reserved for men, such as running small businesses.

Kaafiya says that she got the capital to start her business from saving her earnings from being involved in Trócaire’s project. She was paid to be a ‘Female Community Influencer’ which involved spreading awareness and information about Trócaire’s health services.

Kafiya conducting health education sessions

Kaafiya works with a counterpart, Amina, and together, they have managed to conduct over 4,000 home visits in the district.

“We were selected and trained as Female Community Influencers and part of our mandate is to promote healthy behaviours, encourage and link women who have no contact with a health facility” says Kaafiya. “I have committed myself to the initiative that has been so fulfilling, on top of giving me the capital I needed to start a business”.

She says that her biggest motivation in the job was not only the impact it has on her community, but also the incentives she gets which have gone a long way to liberate her financially.

The shop she set up has become a social hub, which she uses as a platform to extend health education to women.

“Any opportunity I get to chat with the customers is an opportunity to educate them on health” she says.

Kaafiya says she joined a women’s savings group and channelled part of her earnings to savings, which helped her start small. She is able to put into practice business skills she developed when growing up as her mother’s assistant at a vegetable stall.

Kaafiya is among 54 Female Community Influencers in three districts of the Gedo region of Somalia. So far they have conducted over 50,000 home visits, reaching over 30,000 women and referring over 12,000 women and under five children to health facilities.

The SAHAN project is implemented by Trócaire with support from the UK Department of International Development (DFID).

Kaafiya in her shop

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