Faces of UNICEF - Diaspora to Somalia
Returning home from the Diaspora, Somali national finds her bearings
By Robert Kihara
Nairobi, March 2006 - “I decided to return to a place that was virtually unknown to me,” says Fadumo Qasim Dayib as she narrates her decision to return to Somalia 15 years after she left as a teenage girl.
Currently working for UNICEF Somalia in Bossaso, Northeast Somalia (‘Puntland’), Fadumo returned from Finland in August 2005, the culmination of a process that began in November 2004. Intent on securing internships she had been surfing the internet when she came across a UNICEF advertisement for a project officer for HIV/AIDS to work in Puntland. She applied hoping it would give her the experience and opportunity to develop her career and in June 2005, following interviews, UNICEF offered her the position.
She is now on a six-month assignment working out of Nairobi, Kenya, where UNICEF Somalia has its main office. She frequently travels to Somalia on duty. Her duties entail working for the Prevention of Mother to Child Transmission (PMTCT) project of UNICEF Somalia’s HIV/AIDS programme. “My professional background is in health, so naturally PMTCT is an area where my full potential can be tapped into,” says Fadumo.
Fadumo moved to Finland in the 90’s and got permanent residence and started going to a nursing college. To enhance her skills, she studied the Finnish language as her mum who had now joined her enrolled in other courses. Unfortunately in 1995 her mother fell sick and died. For Fadumo this was traumatic. “Somebody is born in the countryside of Africa and the life ends in countryside of a foreign country they never expected to live, let alone die,” she says recalling the tragic turn of events that had seen her family end up in Finland. Fadumo says like many other Somalis, her life exemplifies "the tragedy of dislocation and being forced out of your own country like a foreigner due to war."
In 2004, she attained her Masters Degree in Public Health and is currently finalizing her Masters in Health Care Sciences. This has built on her earlier experience as a nurse and attainment of a Bachelors degree in Nursing.
One of the challenges of leaving Finland was having to break comforts and ties that she had gotten used to – family, brother, sister, husband and children. Luckily though, after discussions with her husband, they agreed that she was more needed in Bossaso. Earlier in March 2004, she had given birth to a third baby whom she took to Somalia leaving the older ones behind in Finland.
On 28th of August 2005 she arrived in Bossaso and since then some of her initial fears have been allayed: “I was virtually a foreigner, not originally being from Bossaso. As a woman from the Diaspora who had left her husband behind, would I be welcome? For any new person to Somalia, the first few months are a shock, coming from a new environment. Now I am settled and my fears have been erased,” says Fadumo. “I see my future in UNICEF. When you are abroad, you get a sense of guilt whenever you see the images of suffering in your country. People in the Diaspora send a lot of money. But nevertheless, there are still problems. So money is not always a solution. So, I thought, why not go a step further and actually contribute in a sustainable manner.
I chose to work for UNICEF because it has credibility in Somalia. I used to read reports in the internet from UNICEF which motivated me to join it. I have not regretted the decision and in a few months time, I am hoping to have my other two children in Finland join me.”
She encourages Somalis in the Diaspora to return home and cites the fact that the fledgling Transitional Federal Government (TFG) which was elected in 2004 held its first full Somali-based session in February 2006 as a reason for cautious optimism.
“When I give my knowledge in HIV/AIDS, I am contributing a part of myself – my brains. I love Somalis and I love Somalia and hope that political instability ends. It is unbelievable, the humanity that abounds even in the most of disadvantaged situations. Somalis in the Diaspora should be part of the new Somalia that is being reborn. There is a new sun coming up. They should not miss out on the birth. All they need is to be more accommodating and to come and build a new Somalia with all the knowledge they have. It may be for a few months, it may be longer, but Somalia has a heart for them all.”