Somalia: Alternative livelihoods – Giving young Somalis a fresh start

Rushing about her teashop in downtown Eyl, a coastal village in Somalia, Bisharo Abdi looks the part of a busy young shopowner

Horndiplomat-Rushing about her teashop in downtown Eyl, a coastal village in Somalia, Bisharo Abdi looks the part of a busy young shopowner. However, behind this chatty young entrepenuer is a complex story. Life for Bisharo has been difficult. She was born into to a poor family in Eyl and orphaned when she was just a child. She started a small teashop to support the younger brothers and sisters she was left to care for. Today, at only 25 years of age, Bisharo is a widow.

  • Over 70% of Somalia’s population is under the age of thirty
  • The unemployment rate for youth in Somalia is 67% – one of the highest rates in the world
  • Over 2175 people (including 329 women) benefitted from UNDP’s social rehabilitation and integration programmes in 2013

Because of their strategic location on the shipping routes past the horn of Africa, communities like Eyl are vulnerable to piracy. “My life and business were dependent on piracy-based income,” said Bisharo. “We were serving a large crowd of young pirates at the teashop. My husband was one of these pirates but he was killed at sea, leaving me alone with unpaid bills and an increasing debt”.

When district sheikhs and elders began a campaign against piracy in the area, most of Bisharo’s clients fled. Dependent on these pirates for an income, Bisharo found herself with nothing. She was threatened when she tried contacting her former clients. Unable to pay her bills, Bisharo was desperate. “This was the end of my business and the beginning of my poverty – I became depressed,” she said.

When she joined UNDP’s social rehabilitation programme, Bisharo’s life began to change. “This opportunity restored my hope,” Bisharo said.

UNDP’s social rehabilitation programme focuses on a holistic change in the lives of young people, including a change of attitude. Through non-formal education tools and trainings on basic social skills, peace building, rule of law, civic education, and literacy and numeracy classes, participants are enabled to explore their options. They are also encouraged to participate in sports, arts and community volunteer activities.

Empowered by the tools learned through UNDP’s social rehabilitation training, Bisharo reopened her tea stand. Using her new skills and numeracy training, she can keep track of her savings and spending. She is no longer reliant on a piracy-based income. Today Bisharo is an independent entrepreneur. Her business is growing, and so is her confidence.

“I am so proud that I learned to read. I never went to school, and now I am learning interesting subjects including social skills, peace building, and literacy. One important lesson I learned is that being associated with piracy is big crime.”


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