Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Nadia Faragaab's response to accusations of misrepresenting Somalis in her comments published in "The Australian"

­­In referance to the article in the Australian: I wasn't taken out of context. I own my words. Let me start by saying, I would rather have a madarasa teacher that is qualified and has a working with children check (WWCC). I appreciate the idea of having teachers that work under guidelines. Teachers that are transparent and accountable, not just to the Government but to us. Madarasas don't teach somali like they used to. By the way why is that? 

If you have a problem with the way your being represented by the Australian newspapers, come up with an alternative news outlet. while you work on your alternative news outlet, put your hand up for interviews. Represent yourselves. My comments are my opinions, which i have come to posses through my dealings with the Somali community in Melbourne, professionally and personally. 

For instance community leaders that discuss receiving half a million here and half a million there from this and that gov't dept on behalf of the Somali community. But when approached about a free Somali English dictionary app, suggestions were made, the Somali women involved in the project, dress a certain way for meetings with them. You can guess the suggested dress code. You can also guess where they were told to go. 

Now about the crises that should really worry us. Lets talk about those hiding their alcohol and other drug misuse or their homosexuality and other things (that will come to light in its own time) while hypocritically shunning it. while its understandable to me that no one wants to be an outsider in their community, its ridiculouse that these same people are acting outraged about these discussions. If the idea of being open about the things you get up to strikes fear of expolsion from the community in you, again I understand.

Yaaharay? (who is left?) those who say that they are genuine about the issues and want to partake in the solutions? Well for you lot; why are you not talking about mental health issues, substance misuse in our community? Or even parents with disabled children who are ashamed to bring out their children in public. Or women who, are raising 5 kids on their own and have panic attacks left, right and centre. Who think they are losing the plot, because they don't know what is happening to them or that it is called a panic attack. They go to their GP and get incorrect diagnosis. Fact; GPs are not experts on mental health.

How about the mother saying her child is on holidays. When in fact her child is in jail or a clinic. We need to have open and frank discussions about the issues we face and not only when the newspapers are interested in our community. Somali people were known to be open and upfront about their issues. This meant issues were nabbed in the bud. What's happened to this particular trait? I wouldn't be a Somali if i didn't use a proverb right about now. 'waxaad qarsatit wayku qarsadaan' what you hide, hides you.

I genuinely respect all your opinion. please feel free to continue discussing. I can't engage in a Facebook 'keyboard heroism', so this will be my only response. Lastly do remember ilahay iyo soomaalinimo ma'iga xigtaan god is no more yours than mine and you're not more Somali than me. No matter how you dress or your other out would appearances. Nadia Faragaab

Friday, September 20, 2013

The very first Humanitarian “Customer Calling Center”

Reblogging from the original post on on 

Several weeks ago I had the fortune to meet with Fatuma Abdulahi, Communications Officer for Accountability for the Danish Refugee Council (DRC), the person behind the HIF project called “Piloting Accountability Systems for Humanitarian Aid in Somalia”, in partnership with UNICEF through the CDRD project (Community-Driven Recovery and Development). Also called “SMS Beneficiary Feedback”, the project is a quick and convenient way for Somali beneficiaries to give feedback about projects funded or services provided by the Danish Refugee Council using an SMS feedback system. The system enables beneficiaries to have a direct access to DRC and a voice in the decision-making process to allocate funds to local projects. It also helps DRC better monitor the effects of the projects on the ground (For more info see here).
I have been interested in accountability systems for Humanitarian organizations since long time and I blogger before about this very topic. This DRC project is the first project I have heard about (ever) that uses mobile technology and crisis mapping to create a completely transparent and direct communication system in between a humanitarian organization and its beneficiaries on the ground. And if this wasn’t enough, this project is taking place in Somalia, not exactly the safest place on earth.
The SMS Beneficiaries Feedback project is a very simple system that basically creates something that most NGOs and humanitarian agencies should have done and learned from the private sector: it creates a calling center for DRC beneficiaries in Somalia. Since the start of the project in September 2011, beneficiary SMS feedback has been implemented in 31 towns and villages in the North and East of Somalia. Now, the project is extended to a number of districts in Mogadishu from where hundreds of SMS’ are submitted every months (see here).
Since then Fatuma has been going around in Somalia basically talking to all those families and beneficiaries and explaining them the project and the possible outcomes of it.
The fact that she actually went to meet all of them in person respond to one of the first possible criticism against this project: managing expectations and deliver a clear message. The fact that beneficiaries can contact the aid organization in fact is always seen as possible disaster in terms of what they will expect once that direct channel is created.
For the past 2 years, every time I have been talking about the possibility to do something like this, the answer I got from aid organizations was that this would have let people think that once they communicate their needs, the aid organization had to respond by delivering what beneficiaries need or ask for. The nightmare of humanitarian organizations thinking about doing something like this, is the prospect of thousands of messages asking for more help, that would then become thousands of angry people that have seen their expectations deloused by overwhelmed aid agencies.
Fatuma did what is the most simple and easy way to do this: went to meet people in person and explained to them what they could expect and how – leveraging also on the fact the Somali society is based on an oral culture. She also explained to them something really simple: this is not a crowdsourcing/help line, this is a system to find out how and if beneficiaries of the DRC program are actually satisfied from the service provided to them and what can be done better.
The ways people can communicate with DRC is channeled in two ways: SMS and phone calls. So what happen next?
1. The first thing that happened is that all the messages are translated into English and channel to the right department/office inside the organization. Each message is reviewed and given an answer to. The speed of the answer depends of course on the readiness/speed of the relative office/officers inside DRC that can respond to that inquiry.
2. Once the relative person has provided an answer to the question/comment, Fatuma’s team delivers the answer directly to the person sending the information. This communication happen in 2 ways: they can send an SMS, if the information they have to deliver is appropriate to this mean (short and not sensitive) or they directly call the number that send the SMS/called. See here the workflow:
3. This all process is documented step by step on a Ushahidi platform, where all SMS are mapped and all responses/commentaries are showed.
The incredible part of this project is that the entire process is completely public and open: all messages and all answers are made public in the platform, including complains, no yet responded messages, appreciations messages and so on.
See here an example:
Another part of this project also provides the mapping of all the DRC projects in the area allowing everyone to brows the map, search for projects, and see what DRC is actually doing on the ground. See here:
Again, this is not just “dots on a map”: each mapped project had attached the financial and beneficiary report, where it is possible to monitor how much  money have been spent, where and from whom the money are coming from.
The reason why I love this project is that it is really showing not only that transparency and accountability is possible in humanitarian aid, but also that it is pretty simple and can be done avoiding to raise expectations with very simple technologies.
In addition to this, the system is also supported by a Flickr page, a Twitter account and aBlog. Again all messages (complains as well as compliments or appreciation messages) are shared on the Twitetr page, while it is possible to see the sites and the projects pictures on the Flickr page and to read stories from Somalia on the Blog.
The SMS system, based on a Galaxy Tab app to receive and send messages to the Ushahidi platform,  needs to be online to work. The system DRC is using, based on a Galaxy Tab app to receive and send messages to the Ushahidi platform that therefore needs to be online to work, could be improved by using a simple method like FrontlineSMS or, if the number of SMS is actually high and she envision the possibility to receive hundreds of SMS a day, to use something more robust like RapidSMS or Souktel.
What DRC could also to make this system faster and more sustainable in the long term would be to outsource or better crowdsource the translation and processing of the SMS by using, for example, students from the Universities in Somalia and giving them credits in exchange of this. DRC could also think about creating a Crowdflower account and have the entire translation process done by anonymous volunteers around the world – something that could be done only giving a closer look to the sensitivity of the information and the possibility to anonymize the sources.
This pilot project is an incredible project that should be looked at the first experiment in the field of transparency and accountability for humanitarian organizations and crisis mapping. The M&E of this project could be used to pave the path for more projects like this, and lessons learned from this project could be used by other organizations to follow the same route.
If I have to think about the lessons learned so far, after my discussion with Fatuma I would say that there is a lot to learn already:
1. Do not use technology to replace the in person dialog. Use it to support it.
2. Manage expectations with dialog and timely accurate information, not with silence.
3. Make sure that  a response mechanism is in place, so that people may not have what they want, but they feel they are being heard and they are having a dialogue.
4. Integrate all the system you have and you can possibly use: face to face, SMS, voice calls, social media. A combination of tools is also a combination of resources and people, and as such as a great potential.
5. Transparency in humanitarian aid is and will continue to be a fundamental factor that will not only make the difference in between successful and unsuccessful projects, but also in between sustainable and not sustainable relationships with beneficiaries on the ground.
Kudos to Fatuma, the DRC team and the Humanitarian Innovation Fund for this incredible project!

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Africa Happiness Report by the Forest Chimps Institute

A survey on the happiest countries in Africa carried out by the Forest Chimps Institute based in the deep forest of Democratic Republic of Congo has just published its grand findings. 
Director of Forest Chimps Institute, Dr Abadan.
According to the findings, the top happiest country in Africa is Angola closely followed by Algeria!! Their next finding is even more baffling. In the top 20 happiest African countries listed, the self-declared independent country of Somaliland came 13, ahead of Senegal, Rwanda and Kenya!

Angola is listed as the top happiest country in Africa but evidence on the ground do not support the findings and Forest Chimps Institute is accused of nepotism since Dr Abadan has been romantically linked to Isabel dos Santos, the daughter of the Angolan President.

The chimps have not disclosed their survey criteria but a Mogadishu-based think tank, Gut Feelings, has just issued a press release dismissing the survery as lacking in transparency and has accused the Forest Chimps Institute of taking bribery from the Angolan government in exchange for unfairly putting them on top of the list. Gut Feelings has also accused Dr Abadan of nepotism as they have evidence romantically linking him to Isabel dos Santos, the daughter of Angolan President, who has recently been named richest woman in Africa by the Forbes magazine.

Gut Feeling think tank has called on the international community to pressure the Forest Chimps Institute to review their survey method and not use invalid criteria such as consumption of the soft drugs Khat to determine happiness of a nation.
Gut Feelings added that the only way they can make sense of the listing - that tops the most expensive and overpriced African country on its happiness index with the only happy residents being President Dos Santos and his family - is if the top criteria was either how much bribe the chimps were paid or the consumption of Khat (drugs commonly used in the Horn of Africa) by city in the listed states. You can read the full report in the link bellow.

Friday, August 30, 2013

Syria might just be the price the West pays for Iraq, and it will be paid by innocent lives!

Who decides what country should be bombed? A group who share skin colour, language and culture dominate this global decision-making process and tend to gang against any non-English speaking country who might disagree. The arrogance of the English-speaking world forcing their perspective on everyone else!

The irony here is that it involves Assad, the monster, but when you have discredited yourself by going to war in the name of "protecting innocent lives against Saddam" when really you were out there to secure your personal interests and dragged other countries along, you no longer qualify to decide who needs to be protected and against whom. Iraq was a costly lesson, Syria might be a turning point.

We can't have a 'world order' where America and Britain bully everyone else into bombing those who fall out of their favour. You can do it once or twice before you run out of credibility. Over a million people matched in London to protest against the war in Iraq and it fell on deaf ears, Assad's victims are paying the price today! Your actions have consequences and until you clean up the mess that is Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya, more innocent people will die in the hands of Assad and other monsters as a direct result of the English-speaking West abusing their powers.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Allah prefers cotton, I just can't produce a receipt to prove it.

Contrast these pictures and tell me if you still think the choice between the "umbrella" and the smaller black headscarf in Somali women's clothing styles is a reflection of who is more "pious".  Could this be a matter of an emerging different class system in Somali society?

Before we go any further, a disclaimer: I am using the pictures bellow to make a point about the different hijab styles and not to focus on the individuals in the picture (bellow picture, courtesy of the BBC). I know, some people find it hard to focus on a subject and debate the issue rather than the personalities. It must be due to that syrupy tea diet we are on, too much sugar can get one too hyper to follow thorough a logical debate. So if you can, please stay focused on the costume and not the girls. 

As I was saying, it is down to economics. Secondly, and I don't have a proof, am pretty sure Allah prefers cotton, is environmentally friendly and would frown upon cheap nylon umbrellas which in the Somali unforgiving heat, will make the cleanest woman stink like goat meat gone nasty. 

Exhibit 1: Nylon Allah won't approve of. It is China cheap (nothing personal Chinese friends), not good for human skin and shit makes a woman stink. All these should go in the haraam files of any self-respecting Muslim woman's fashion book.

22 years of civil war, rampant violence against women, alarming level of rape and extreme poverty, horror combination of factors might have led to women dressing in nylon umbrellas but if you say that out loud, all the nutjobs armed with very little Quran and an plenty AK47s will end your life quicker than you would have a minute to explain. So, I am doing it here, far from guns, knives and men who can't tell the difference between clinical madness and divine intervention. Cyber space safety, Maasha Allaah!

Exhibit 2: Human-friendly hijab, cotton and so far no receipts these women are any less "pious" or Muslim than Team Nylon Umbrella. Again, I don't have any evidence and only going by that thing called "gut feeling" Allah will stamp "Nacam Yes Nacam" on this style hijab and no one will go to hell. 

Being a Muslim hijabi woman doesn’t have to look like a malfunctioned rainbow slapped on an umbrella or a moving London bus! You can be modest and a seriously practicing Muslim while dressed in decent and colour-coordinated hijab. 

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Preachers by day and sexual predators by night, Somali men!

The separation of public and private personas of majority of Somali men borders on psychotic! Hold your guns and let me explain before you shoot.

On the outside, most men act honorable, some dress in religious costumes and grow beard others are seen as “respectable elders or intellectuals”. These men command respect from not only their families and neighbours but sometimes also from their clan and Somali society in general. They lead what would be considered decent and responsible lives, most (these days you will struggle to find a boy over 15 who is not already married with kids) are married with children and some even have multiple wives. I am describing the average Somali man, also known as Faarah. He has an average of 2 wives and 8 kids. He is skinny and tall with a dashing smile - apart from green teeth monsters who chew khat on a daily basis.

Most Faarahs pay a lot of attention to Haliimo’s dress code, (for the non-Somali readers, Haliimo is your average Somali woman). I would go as far as to say most Faarahs have few full time jobs:

1)    Marrying, divorcing and wife-replacing at least once a year.
2)    Selflessly repopulating Somalia and making up for the couple of million lives lost to the war (never mind that we have more than replaced that number just few years into the war and now desperately need population control methods)
3)    Volunteer moral police for women’s dress code, and this particular full time volunteer job is done with such zeal we often have victims physically violated by someone “outraged” by “inappropriate” dress code!

When in a group, most men act all respectable and decent. They talk a lot about religion, quoting what Allah and the Prophet have said, the role of women in Islam (latter is their favourite section of the Quran). Then something strange happens when the same men get a minute with a woman alone. Suddenly it is like a sexually starved deamon takes over their bodies and they turn totally creepy! I have had so many lines of the most inappropriate sexual jokes from usually older Somali men to fill a book, seriously. But I will give you just one example to illustrate my point.

Late last year in Mogadishu an older male friend, or I thought he was a friend, said something to me in front of 2 other male friends that my heart skipped a beat in disbelieve. We were sitting at a hotel lobby having dinner and joking after a tough day of Shabaab bombing in the city and when he got up to leave for his room, out of the blue said “I hope you never starve and always have both your mouths fed”!!! My Somali isn’t as polished so it took me a while to figure out what he meant and I did it mainly as a result of the shocked look on the faces of my 2 male friends sitting next to me. To my horror and surprise I figured out he meant “may you never run out of food and dick”! How incredible is it that a so called respectable and well known man in Somali politics circles would say such a rude and crude thing while sober and in public? Don’t worry, I won’t scoop as low and add his picture on this entry, even though I am really tempted.

He ran off quickly to his room before I had a chance to confront him so I did it the following day at lunch, when he walked over to my table as if nothing had happened and greeted me with a big friendly smile. I would have thought I dreamt the whole thing up had it not been for the witnesses! He seemed genuinely surprised that I “took the joke so hard”, “it was just an innocent thing otherwise I wouldn’t have said it so openly. I thought of all women, you would be strong and open enough to understand such a joke”…Like wow, why don’t you just rape me for a joke, that is the only thing left!

It is that psychotic and ‘normal’ to abuse women and sexually harass them with such ease, result of accepted culture of violence and impunity.  

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

A UNDP gimmick: providing vocational training for 1190 youths in a country of 67% youth unemployment, using their own figures!!

First item that showed up on my twitter feed this morning was of few Somalis retweeting a story published yesterday, 12th August, by the titled: “the UNDP provides vital job-skills training for youth in Somalia”. This had me intrigued since employment in Somalia is a subject close to my heart, so I went to the site and read the article.

Usually websites, more so than print media given the rapid pace of online media, would print a current or recent relevant story.  Instead,, one of the biggest African news portals has published a story, for internet years, ancient and based entirely on a self-claim success by the UNDP.

The story is based on a study commissioned by the UNDP on youth unemployment and it found that a staggering "73% of Somali population is under 30 and 42% is between 19 and 29 years" I am no statistician but I could guess that much given the average Somali household consists of a single mother and 6 children! The report goes on to state that "the unemployment rate for youth aged 14 to 29 amounts to 67% - one of the highest in the world." The UNDP then goes on to share its success story of having given 1190 youths from across Somalia a vocational training...In 2012!! Out of 67% of an estimated population of 15 million!! The fact that the UNDP is able to share these embarrassing figures of vocational training in the context of the magnitude of youth unemployment is in itself telling of the carelessness in which the UNDP deals with Somalia! 

This story is baffling, to say the least. Has the UNDP run out of new and interesting stories to tell about its massive operation in Somalia to be sharing an outdated and a really embarrassing story of under-achievement? What has the UNDP done in Somalia and on the subject of youth unemployment, apart from a study that tell us what we already know, that youth unemployment in Somalia is really high…Duh! A 5 year old could tell you why Shabaab exists and where they find their recruits! This outdated but still fashionable way the “do good but you don’t have to prove you really did any good” industry uses the opportunity to 'share their peanuts achievements' when a “new study of youth unemployment” is published is not only cheesy but really a piss-take in addressing an issue as serious as youth unemployment in a devastated country like Somalia. 

Secondly, we have no way of knowing if the UNDP really did train these youth beyond their claim. It gets better, the UNDP in this story claims 40% of the 1190 trained youth have found employment at the end of their training! Wow, with such success rate and knowing how the UNDP overstretches its success stories, I would have expected them to paste these youths pictures and job titles in the achievement section of their 500-page report to justify all the money that gets spent on white-employment salaries, Rest and Recuperation from the dreadful experience that is 2-day "field work" and hardship allowances.

Meanwhile, will the UNDP ever publish how many of its Somalia staff are Somali nationals? Why is the UNDP employing so many non-Somalis when there are qualified and competent Somali nationals for those positions? How many Somalis does the UNDP employ at top policy, managerial and decision-making levels? We can easily find out how many Somalis the UNDP employs at the bottom, as drivers, cleaners, cooks and tea-ladies, and they are so many.  The UNDP has been working in Somalia for far too long to be publishing a report on a subject so familiar to Somalis and then using these “findings” to celebrating having provided a handful of youth vocational trainings!! The UNDP has the resources to address youth unemployment in Somalia in a meaningful and honest way instead of this gimmick and disrespectful manner.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Breaking news: President Hassan Sheikh wished Somalis a happy Eid and handouts for the poor from the better off!!

In his special Eid day speech, President Hassan Sheikh urged the “better off” Somalis to "give and share with their poorer neighbours so their children can also celebrate Eid"...Ahh, how thoughtful and touching is this?!

What is odd about this kind of emotive and thoroughly useless gesture, apart from the fact that the good will only last as long as the cameras are rolling, is that Somalis do not need a reminder from the President or anyone else to be charitable, they genuinely give and share even when they have very little! Save your valuable airtime Mr President and tell us something useful.

Secondly, Dear Mr President, emotional blackmail does not feed mouths and will not detract from your inability to come up with solutions to poverty and if there are that many poor children in Mogadishu (let's not even talk about the rest of the country you are not in charge of), it is top of your list of duties to create jobs for their parents so they can feed them. On a special day like today, I was hoping you will give us real good news or keep silent, the way you normally do on most important national issuesToday I expected news of your detailed plans on how you are going to tackle poverty, create jobs and support entrepreneurship so no child has to depend on handouts for survival or to celebrate Eid. And your time frame to deliver on these.

Do you know how many children can be fed by the cost of your London/Istanbul/Tokyo conferences jet hires and entourage alone? While we were busy killing each other for the past 22 years, the world has changed beyond recognition and just in case you haven’t been keeping up with the technological advances, there are amazing new ways to participate in conferences and meetings across the world without stepping out of Villa Somalia and wasting the little money you have! Skype and google video conferencing, webinar, video streaming are just a fraction of the tools available to you. Does your young and capable staff at Villa Somalia share these tools with you? I doubt it, free trip to Europe and America is why most of them are working for you, just saying.  

I am aware the task facing you is daunting and a condition created by lawlessness for over two decades can not be reversed in a year in office and I am sure you meant well by that speech but it was a letdown of the poor in Somalia. They deserve more from their President than asking their better off neighbours to throw something at them on a special day like today!

Shame on you, Mr President! 

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Somali fingerpointing politics while we protect our clan thugs in office

Will we ever see an Isaaq defend the rights of Jubbaland, a Majeerteen the rights of Somaliland, an Ogaadeen the rights of Federal Somalia, Abgaal defend the rights of Puntland? Are even our intellectuals capable of engaging in politics as individuals instead of from their clan's background and perspective?

Yes, you have the right and should protect your own home-town first but surely not at the cost of our common good? How do we find that balance? How do we ensure our home-town villages and lands are included in this complex Somali federalism negotiation while not walking all over our neighbour's rights and peacefully co-exist in Somalia? How do we create a Somalia that ensures every citizen's rights are protected, not just the lands, and create an environment to unleash our potential as individuals and ppl instead of constantly being on survival and self-defense mode? 

This is a rich land, more than enough to properly provide for every Somali to live a dignified life. The obstacle to peace and prosperity is our mindset and our inability to stay neutral in the face of clan bigotry! This needs to change fast if we are not to slip back into the horrors of the last 22 years.

Friday, July 12, 2013

How corrugated iron, rainy season and poverty gave Africa too many babies.

If you have grown up in poverty in sub-Saharan Africa and you have found a way to escape that life, you will realise the mention of corrugated iron somehow jolts the memories you have safely stowed away years ago and will act as a vivid reminder of just how bad things were in uninsulated corrugated iron housing!

When it rains in Africa it does not come knocking at your roof politely but descends with such angry force and within minutes streets are flooded. Living in a corrugated iron house was stuff of nightmare during this season or any other. When the raindrops touched the thin corrugated iron roof, if you were asleep, you will jump out of bed in shock wondering if 3rd world war has started! The raindrops sound like a rapid fire attack and as soon as you get your head around the fact that is it just rain, you won’t be able to hear your thoughts again until the rain stops. People who grow up in these kinds of houses (they are not fit to call them homes) have even built their own rainy season mini culture. When the nightmare starts, you don’t bother having a conversation because it does not matter how high pitched your voice is, no one will hear you. If you were doing work that needed concentration, like school homework or God forbid, in the middle of surgery, good luck to the patient. This rather life-disrupting rainy season has it is good side, tho. If it was a tiny house with large families, like most sub-Saharan African family structures with no privacy, this is the baby-making season as it is your only chance to have sex and be as loud as you want with no one noticing. You are totally private and free to scream as you like, for once, right next door to your 14 kids, half of them teenagers who would be embarrassed to death if they heard their middle-aged parents scream with pleasure like hyenas celebrating a kill!

During the hot and dusty season, things get worst for corrugated iron housing residents. Without an insulation to ensure the heat collected by the iron roof is not transferred directly to the house, making it heat up like an oven, you can literally feel your skull bake to the point where you can smell burning skin! The worst smell ever and it is one of those horrid smells which tend to sit in the easily retrievable section of the memory drawers. Those Africa-saving do-gooders with their “less than a dollar a day” poverty theories don’t realise for people who grew up in a poor corrugated iron housing every time we hear poverty, we retrieve the memories of burning human flesh and the deafening sound of raindrops hitting the roof. I want to turn the volume down on their pulled-out-of-thin-air poverty theories as badly as I want to stop the violent sound of raindrops on corrugated iron roof. 

With such nasty memories of corrugated iron housing, you can imagine my response when I visited my cousin in Mpumalanga, South Africa, and she suggested we spend a pleasant sunny Saturday in the nearby Barbeton historical town and check out the famous Victorian corrugated iron houses. I said, hell no! Nothing beautiful about corrugated iron and it was a day too beautiful to be retrieving awful memories of baking human skull. Mpumalanga is a beautiful province in South Africa with some of the most breath-taking landscapes and I was sure there were other more pleasant little towns we could visit. 

Well, I am glad I was persuaded to visit and I learnt corrugated iron housing does not have to be the ugly and horrible experience of my childhood. In fact, I fell in love with these amazingly designed and grand homes. They have added so many beautiful little carved wood details to disguise the sharp edges of the corrugated iron to create more aesthetically pleasing homes than I was familiar with. They also made them properly insulated so residents don’t have to go deaf in the rainy season, suffer from baking skull in the summer or freeze their balls during winter. These houses are absolutely gorgeous and human-friendly, who would have thought corrugated iron could be this beautiful! 

Monday, June 17, 2013

The missing fathers who only show up at make-a-baby o'clock!

A day for Somalis to reflect while the rest of the world celebrates Father's Day. Alarming number of Somali children are growing up without father figures and so many 'single mothers' in hijab, seem to be dropping babies every year for men missing in action only to show up to 'bestow' the women with yet another fatherless child!

Somali men have deserted their basic responsibilities and still demand respect, for what, donating their sperm? For the entitlement to be Presidents of a nation they haven’t managed to feed and raise its children?

I am among the older generation of Somalis in their 30s now who saw better days of Somali men. Time when men honoured their responsibilities, took pride in raising and providing for their families. Time when women were treated with respect and not viewed as sex object or someone to rape and take their frustrations out on. Also, a time when women had more self-respect and did not marry and conceive for any Jack with a third leg. When women did not settle or justify their existence on having babies…For any man!

Some of today’s single mothers will, with such audacity and confidence, advice other single women to “just dust-off one of the loser Farahs and marry him. After all, the aim of marriage is to have babies and if the man doesn’t hold his part, just kick him out after you got your babies”! Seriously?! Silly me, I thought marriage was about a union of two people who have chosen each other and actually enjoy each other’s company and then children were byproduct of this happy union. I also thought children who are born out of happy union and are given love and support grow up to be emotionally balanced human beings and productive citizens.

This is not blaming all the mess that is today’s Somali society on the failed fathers but also on the mothers and women who have settled for less, who do not have enough self-believe to demand the best a man has to offer.  

I am lucky, in that I was rasied by a responsible, loving and a totally dedicated single father. A man who showed up at school in Somalia every Thursday to check on our performance, if we have behaved ourselves and demanded we always get 1st in class (this last one I didn’t really like but I appreciated it much later). A father who managed to insulate us from the madness that was growing up in Waaberi district of Mogadishu, a place with very little rules and routine and too much fun for children. He taught us how to read, write, wash our clothes, cook and know when social rules were too stupid to obey! Every evening was a family time, we had time to listen to radio, write commentary, do home-work together and just talk and laugh.

I don’t see a lot of that happening in the current Somali families I meet and it is very sad to see children growing up pretty much on their own and with exhausted single mother who can barely manage to provide for them and spend quality time with them. Of course, there are many single mothers and parents doing well and I am happy for the children growing up in those households, but majority, especially the Somali families in the UK, I have not seen a sight more depressing! Single mothers overloaded with children and responsibilities and living in tiny spaces who hardly see the sun. How on earth are they supposed to raise children well when they have no space to breath? And our society, instead of talking about these issues openly and provide support for the families, we are told, go ahead sisters and have more babies! We congratulate women for being tough and raising the children on their own. "Maansha Allah" seems to be reserved for the struggling single mother for marching on when the husband ran off on her and their 6 kids!

Less Maansha Allah, misleading and misinforming women and putting up with the missing fathers, please. Women need to be supported to make better choices in their lives. Why take on this load and spend your few days on this earth slaving because society expects you to make use of that womb and make a baby, who might grow up so miserable that he will happily wear a suicide belt and take few people with him!

Yes yes, before you go quote a Quran chapter on me, babies can be a blessing, I agree. I am not totally anti children or marriage. I am anti create another ghetto culture and have more babies than you can feed for loser ‘husbands’. Somali women can do better and should demand more! However, given the reality on the ground for the slim pickings of cool, sexy, great Farah, marry Steve or stay single and enjoy sex for what it is.

My dad would disown me for these views, lol, but he raised me to think and question stuff. So, here is to a great father, whom we strongly disagree and sometimes can’t stand each other but who did his job so well the guy deserves a goddamn medal!

Happy father’s day to the responsible, loving and caring Somali fathers out there, you are very very few. 

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Dear white folks, it is illegal to take photos of or with African children!

Dear white folks, 63 years ago it was ‘noble’ to take pictures with rough-looking black African kids like you were in a zoo. It was still kinda cool and adventurous thing to take back home from your “dark continent” adventures as late as 1990s. In 2013 however, access to camera, flights and communication devices have been democratized and the world is a bit more ‘transparent’.  

Africans, former zoo residents, are out of the zoo and on social media and can see all the weird pictures you post with trusting and ‘cute’ black African kids with big smiles. I don’t think they like it a bit. Ever seen a black African tourist in Croatia posing with a random blonde kid? That shit doesn’t happen so what makes it normal for you guys to come to Liberia, Ethiopia, or that country called Africa and pose with a random black child? So weird! Maybe next time you will be content posing only with the giraffe and leave the children alone. 

Monday, March 11, 2013

The African Union Rep seems to have no regard for violence against African women!!

I was chatting with my friend, Saida, on Facebook just minutes ago following her frustrated status updates regarding the African Union representative to the 57th Commission on the Status of Women (CSW), not showing up! I had no idea about the event let alone Africa sending an official rep on behalf of women in this continent (I wonder how many women groups have been consulted) and when Saida, part of the Kenyan delegation, told me the rep just took off before an important session, I was amazed and furious. So, I googled and found a link with basic info, see bottom of page for details.

Saida posted this on her FB: 
‎”@UN CSWAmazing....the rep of AU who is supposed to speak on all of our behalf in the African continent is missing! Are we surprised that we never influence processes as Africans?”

I commented on her wall asking for clarification and she replied: 

“Imagine how embarrassing, the chair called out for AU rep several times the eventually said " oh i do not see the AU rep so we just move on to....." This is the high level negotiation and general discussions on what the outcome document for elimination of violence against women/girls is going to look like, what language will make it to the document and what commitments states and non state actors will make to addressing VAWG [Violence Against Women Globally]. I am just not impressed!”

Women in Africa face violence on daily bases and at many levels, from domestic violence, rape, lack of education and job opportunities to cultural and religious based oppression, to name but few and this is how the African Union representative acts in a major global event to address the status of half of Africa's population??!!! I am outraged and if anyone reading this knows where to send formal complaints (which will be acted on, preferably), please share. This is totally unacceptable and it is up to African women to ensure their rights and interests are well represented and protected. Please share this on your networks and social media pages and make some noise. Time for African officials to be held accountable. She/he probably went for a beer brake knowing mostly likely no one will complain. 

Here is the link to the event and have pasted the body of the event page bellow it. 

The fifty-seventh session of the Commission on the Status of Women will take place at the United Nations Headquarters in New York from 4 to 15 March 2013. Representatives from Member States, UN entities, and NGOs in consultative status with the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) from all regions of the world will attend the session. The two-week session will include a high-level round table, interactive dialogues and panels, and parallel events.
The 2013 session will focus on the following key areas:

1)   Priority Theme: Elimination and prevention of all forms of violence against women and girls
2) Review Theme: The equal sharing of responsibilities between women and men, including caregiving in the context of HIV/AID

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Happy Valentine's day

I got back just in time for my valentine date
I was so worried I won’t get a flight in time
Like any relationship, we have our ups and downs
Some days I want to go away and never come back
Sometimes I think we are better lovers with few thousand miles between us
But after a short separation I get these butterflies and long for a reunion
Today, I am just super happy to be sharing a glass of champaigne with my love, Africa!
Basking in its sun, friendly faces, colours, the future is bright, I feel more alive than ever in her presence.