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Somali Women

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In a nondescript white building along the bustling Makka al Mukarramah Road, a group of women intently focus on their computer screens, playing and replaying sound pieces. Somali music plays softly through the speakers as the presenter fits on her headset and starts the show. Welcome to Aman Radio, the first all-female run radio station in Mogadishu.


Incessant conflict has put Somalia's women as one of the most disadvantaged in the world. In Mogadishu's internally displaced camps, rape is rife and domestic violence is rampant in most areas. Despite condemnation of acts of violence against women and efforts to curb their marginalization by aid agencies and civil society, one voice has been conspicuously absent; the voice of the Somali women. This is what Aman Radio seeks to fill.


"I chose journalism because I want to amplify the voices of my society and especially those of Somali women. I want to speak for the disadvantaged and those whose voices never receive attention, " explains Anisa Abdullahi, an editor at the station. "I chose Aman because its dedicated to social issues. We rarely discuss politics. We focus on the community, women, healthcare, education and the rebuilding of the country. So in some little way, I want to help my society by highlighting their needs and celebrating their accomplishments," she adds.



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Hodan Ahmed is the 2013 recipient of the Andi Parhamovich Fellowship. She joined NDI-Somalia in 2010 and has since worked on legislative strengthening in her home country. In her capacity as senior program officer she has worked closely with women in Somalia's parliament and has contributed to the establishment of the Somali Women Parliamentary Association (SOWPA), the first women's caucus in the Somali legislature. In the past, Ahmed's work has included advocating against negative cultural practices that affect Somali women, such as female genital mutilation and denying education to girls. Ahmed has also worked on youth programs focusing on reproductive health and HIV/AIDS prevention.




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Finland’s first Somali author


Nura Farah will on Thursday become the first author of Somali background to publish a novel in Finland. Her work Aavikon tyttäret (Daughters of the desert) tells the story of a Somali woman’s life in the desert as she dreams of becoming a poet, and her struggles to overcome traditional gender roles.




The central character in the story is a woman called Khadija, who would like to be a poet. In Somali culture, poetry is the domain of men and as a woman, Khadija's daily life revolves around animal husbandry, child care and long journeys to fetch water.


"You get a big audience for yourself if you can speak beautifully," says Farah. "In Somali culture people value eloquence."


Although the novel is set in the 1950s, the oral poetry tradition remains strong in modern Somalia. Farah is hoping that this tradition will become familiar to Finns, who she hopes will get to know Somali culture.


"I especially wanted readers to take some poetry from my book, and that they might get to know something about desert life," says Farah. "I hope that it's not seen as simply a story about Somalis. This book isn’t just for Somalis; it can also be for Finns."


Farah was born in 1979 in Saudi Arabia, and moved to Somalia as a child. At the age of 13 she emigrated to Finland with her mother and siblings. Her new home was in the grip of a deep recession, and according to Farah there was a fair amount of racism.


Fulfilment of a dream


Now resident in Helsinki and trained as a lab assistant, the first-time author has never lived in the desert. Her inspiration for the book came from the canon of Somali literature and the stories of her relatives in Finland.

Runokirjan sivu -kuvituskuva. Eloquence is highly-prized in Somali culture. Image: Yle Uutisgrafiikka


Aavikon tyttäret is the first book written by a Somali author to be published in Finnish. It would be a literary event anyway, as books about Somalia are rare indeed. The majority of Somali authors are male, and the country’s literary tradition is still young.


"I am the first, but I hope that I will not be the last to do like this," says Farah. "This is the fulfilment of my dream."

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Somalia native right at home with U.S. Trust





Dega Nalayeh, Senior Vice President, Private Client Advisor for U.S Trust, Bank of America Private Wealth Management.


Nothing ever came easy for financial expert, Dega Nalayeh, but the Somalia native, who grew up in a family of 12 children, has made her transition into the billion dollar financial industry look as smooth as her beautiful skin.


Nalayeh migrated to Canada before arriving in the United States and her ability to learn quickly and move rapidly has been key in her escalation into the hierarchy of U.S. Trust where she continued to grow professionally in a male dominated industry.


“Dega is a motivating person,” said Miesha Carter, client sales and service officer, of her boss Nalayeh, who is a senior vice president private client advisor with U.S. Trust, a division of Bank of America.


“She stays on top of everything . She knows what she’s talking about. And, just to be able to get in front of clients and know what you’re talking about and when you’re able to come back and convey that to your employees and encourage them to do more and better, I think that’s her greatest attribute. “


Nalayeh began her career with Bank of America over 15 years ago, where she started in the Consumer Bank and quickly assumed higher responsibility. She joined Bank of America’s Private Bank in 2006. Currently, she oversees more than $2.5 billion of client assets.


“I deal primarily with individuals and wealthy families (minimum $3 million in liquid assets),” explained Nalayeh during a recent interview with the Sentinel.


“My job is to help them preserve their wealth. I also manage their risk while helping them accomplish their goals. My goal is to get to know that individual, get to know their family dynamics. [i get to know] their feelings about money. What is it that they want to accomplish? What legacy do they want to leave behind?”


She credits her success with clientele to being part of a large family. “My 7 sisters and four brothers and I all grew up in the same household. I think that really makes me good at what I do,” Nalayeh said.


“It’s not just knowing the product, knowing the numbers… it’s about knowing human beings. A lot of what I do is like being a therapist, especially when you’re dealing with multi-generations of family and advising them on how to pass down wealth. There’s a lot of complexity when it comes to family.


Nalayeh and one of her sisters left Canada for Atlanta where she began her career. They left Atlanta after two years for California. She’s been in her current position for a little over seven years now and it’s been hard work, she said.


“I started with no clients,” she explained.


“Luckily, I can say seven and a half years later, I manage over 2 billion dollars in assets. And, that’s really just going out there, going out in the community and just asking for business.


“It’s not easy. No one is just going to give you 3 million dollars and say, ‘hey, Dega, I see your title, here’s 3 million dollars for you to manage.’ I think it’s credibility and having your existing clients. The majority of my business comes from referrals from my existing clients… one thing that makes me unique is the passion that I have.


“[For example] I deal with a lot of international clients, not just local clients. A lot of them are very secretive when it comes to wealth. The matriarch of the family will have all of the wealth and the family doesn’t know it. I’m about educating that person and making them see the importance of setting their family to succeed instead of fail.”


That’s why she sets up customized classes for her client’s kids. “They could be a teenager, they could be 40,” she said.


She begins with a test to see where they are financially. From there, she teaches them everything from the basics of banking to lending and investing.


She also volunteers at schools, teaching kids financial basics. “I think that children are so impressionable,” she said. “I teach them the basic concepts of money and at the end of the year, I see what they’ve learned. Whether it’s an inner city school, a public school or a private school, I love educating kids. If we start [teaching] them young as mothers and fathers about money… education is great but as equally important as teaching them how to be successful and financially independent, is teaching them about money. They need to know how to save, how to spend and how to give.”

“She’s a go-getter and she doesn’t back down,” said Taire Hanson, a client services manager who has worked directly with Nalayeh for the past six years. “She’s a great motivator and I actually look up to and admire her.”


Nalayeh works with high end clients but says anyone can apply her financial advice to their lives. “I think it’s really important to understand the big picture. I don’t care if you’re making ten dollars or sixty dollars. Start saving. Be on a budget,” she said.


“The sooner you start saving the better. When you get your paycheck, don’t pay your bills first, pay yourself first. It could be $100, it could be $50… also, start investing. The earlier you invest the better. If you don’t know, seek the information. There are so many resources these days, especially on line.”


Nalayeh received her Bachelor’s Degree with Honors from York University in Toronto, Canada, where she majored in Applied Mathematics and Physics.

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Edna Adan Ismail & colleagues opened a maternity hospital, train 300+ midwifes. By opening a maternity hospital and training hundreds of midwifes who are stationed in the cities, towns and rural regions, Edna Adan Ismail and her team have reduced the maternal mortality rate by 75% in the areas that they are able to reach.


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