Breaking the Norm, Ruun's Story

Published May 16, 2016 by Jawahir Saed

Ruun Dahir getting paid for her work with ‘Your environment is your life’ program

SOME PEOPLE PERCIEVE AFRICAN WOMEN AS WEAK, SUBMISSIVE AND AT TIMES LESS THAN EQUAL TO THEIR MALE COUNTERPARTS. OTHERS BELIEVE THAT WHILE WOMEN ARE THE EQUALS OF MEN, THEIR ROLES SHOULD BE CONFINED TO LOOKING AFTER THE HOMESTEAD AND THE CHILDREN WHILE MEN FIND JOBS OUTSIDE THE HOME.

In Somalia, not a day passes where these schools of thought are not challenged. As we celebrate World Mothers Day this month, we salute the likes of Ruun Dahir Abdi, who have broken the norm and continue to defy the odds daily.  Her story is one of survival and sheer determination to sustain her family amidst many challenges. 

“I am a mother to 9 children and currently the only breadwinner of my family. Ever since my husband got sick he has been unable to work. The responsibility for providing for the family is now on me.” 

With no education, assets or any marketable skills, she had no choice but to open a small tea shop which yielded little income. With 5 of her children in school as well as taking care of her sick husband the expenses became much.

“I woke up early every day even when the business was not doing well. In tough days, I would take what I could on credit at times not even sure if I would pay back. I'm grateful the lenders were patient with me, they said it was because of my diligence and perseverance."

Things eventually changed for Ruun when she was selected as a beneficiary for the ‘Your Environment is Your Life’ program run by Adeso in an attempt to restore the rangelands of Puntland. I was part of a team tasked in the rehabilitation of rangeland surrounding my village lives in Bayra, Mudug region. When we started, the land was dry and barren. Ruun took pleasure and pride in the restoration process and after some time the land returned to its greenery. To top it up she got paid for her work.

With the money she received she plans to stock up her shop. She also managed to buy three goats which provide the family with milk, nowadays I don’t buy milk anymore. At times I sell the surplus milk and make an extra income. My goats now graze in the rangeland I participated in rehabilitating.

Her shop is now doing well and it supplements the income she gets when working under Adeso’s Cash for Work program. I have been able to pay off my previous debts. My children are in school and their fees is not an issue anymore. Even though my husband’s medicine is still a concern, I am now in a position to take a loan from other traders every now and then to cover his medication. And because we are more stable financially I am not worried about not being able to paying back anymore.

‘Your Environment is Your Life’ is a four year initiative that offers Puntland’s broader community - including pastoral families, urban households, IDPs, the business community and charcoal traders - the opportunity to collectively benefit from improved and sustainable rangeland resources, alternative energy sources and employment opportunities.