On being a girl from Somaliland
Editor’s note: Our partners at The School Fund believe that every young person, in every country and circumstance, has the right to education. Fahima’s story originally appeared on The School Fund’s blog.
By Fahima Abdi Ali
Coming from Somaliland and being a girl is the best thing that has ever happened to me.
I am from Somaliland, a country in East Africa where women have little to no rights. My mother was married at 15 and had her first child when she was 16. I watched my father basically enslave my mother and then divorce her when I was five years old. After that, my mother was a single mother and had no job. She sacrificed everything for our education because she was determined that we not make the same mistake she did: marrying at age 15.
Receiving an education in my country is very challenging, particularly when you are a girl and when you are poor. I am both but I’ve always loved school and I’ve never let anything get in the way of being able to study. It wasn’t easy. When I went to the local elementary school, I carried a wooden board instead of paper and a piece of coal instead of a pen.
“My own uncles harassed and tried to hurt me; they wanted me to get married instead of going to school. I didn’t listen to them and kept going.”
People made fun of me because my family never visited, but I knew that my mother didn’t come because she was struggling to find a way to support us. My own uncles harassed and tried to hurt me; they wanted me to get married instead of going to school. I didn’t listen to them and kept going.
At 13, I received a scholarship to Abaarso, a prestigious boarding school that had recently opened in a town far away from my home. Abaarso changed my life significantly. The teachers there challenged me and taught me to think critically; I hadn’t experienced anything like it before and it felt like a privilege to be there. I wanted to give back to children who were even less fortunate than I was so I tutored orphans in a local town.
Working at the orphanage was the most difficult job in the school, and I was more than happy to do it. More than anything, I wanted them to become talented children who could help others later in life. Life gave them very limited options and I wanted them to try to create more opportunities for themselves by leading them down the right road.
When I came to the U.S.—on scholarship—I made a fundraising page and raised about $1,800, which is a year’s tuition at the best school in Somaliland. The school already gave scholarships to as many smart orphans as they could and were willing to take more students if they could pay, so I sent the money to the school and they took one more orphan. I am trying my best to help these children get shelter, education, and the love that they deserve to have.
“I always dreamed of getting an education in a great place, and it has come true!”
Back in Somaliland, I always dreamed of getting an education in a great place, and it has come true! Few people in my country get the opportunity to come to the U.S. and receive a marvelous education and scholarship. I worked very hard to receive a Davis Scholarship to study in the U.S., and now I sit next to very smart students, and I am very grateful that I am just doing as well as they are doing. I have loved my time and my teachers at both Riverdale and Emma Willard and want to continue to learn as much as I can.
Some day in the future, I want to return to my country and try to fix our corrupt government. I want to give opportunities to all those girls who are imprisoned by their corrupt society. I am not only a feminist but I am also a human rights activist. I love helping the disadvantaged, the poor and the confined, and I want to use my education to make their lives better.
Photographs courtesy of The School Fund.
LEARN more about The School Fund here.
SHARE this story with your networks; see menu at top and bottom of page.
DONATE to support students in the developing world by clicking here.