No story inspires as much hope as Fadumo Dayib’s. From refugee, the remarkable woman is now a presidential candidate, the first female to achieve such a feat. Her life was not easy but this did not deter her. It is with such great tenacious resolve that she goes into the presidential race. This is no ordinary woman, but then again, no African woman is ordinary.
Who is Fadumo Dayib?
Fadumo Dayib was born to Somali parents in Kenya. Her parents were uneducated; her father was a truck driver while her mother is described as a “nomad” by the Harvard Gazette and the two had moved to Kenya to start a new life together. The family was however deported in 1989.
Recalling the deportation, she said, “One of the earliest memories of being a second-class citizen, an unwanted person, a displaced person, was when they handed me a small card that said, ‘Go home,’ And that was the boarding pass that I used to get on Somali Airlines to leave Kenya.” The civil war in Somalia forced her family to leave, ending up in Finland. Again, she was simply not at home in this foreign land as she felt “the refugee community was largely marginalized, tolerated but never truly wanted”.
Fadumo only learnt to read and write from the age of 14 but now she holds three master’s degrees (one from Harvard) and is currently working on her Ph.D. in women’s governmental participation and empowerment in post-conflict regions. In 2005, Dayib made her return to Somalia and started working for the United Nations in Puntland, Somalia. Only then did she know what it meant to be home. Dayib was moved to Nairobi, Kenya and later went to Fiji and then Liberia. The Harvard Gazette says “she helped set up HIV prevention offices and trained health care providers for the United Nations over the next several years”. It is here that her desire to lead her country was born.
The birth of Fadumo Dayib, the Presidential Candidate
Liberia was recovering from its internal turmoil and this inspired Dayib to hope for the same for her own country. She says she thought to herself, “Why can’t Somalia be like this? I want to be in an environment like this where you don’t hear gunfire, girls are going to school, women are working, people feel happy.”
With a really sensational sense of service, Fadumo Dayib wants to be at the fore-front of change in her motherland. The very troubled motherland which she admits to have 1.2 million people internally displaced and a further 1.5 million in the diaspora. She admits to 68% of the Somali population being unemployed yet she wants to meet these problems head-on. When asked by NPR’s Rachel Martin, host of the Weekend Edition Sunday why she wanted to be President, she responded, “Because I see what I’m doing as a moral obligation and a civic duty towards my country. I’ve watched for almost 26 years, hoping for a competent leadership to come that can bring us all back.”
She is motivated by the need to prevent further bloodshed. “We have watched on the sidelines for more than 25 years and it is imperative that we step forward and take up this responsibility. The current and previous leaderships have failed us; we must take matters in to our own hands and that is why I’m running for presidency because I have capabilities, skills and motivation,” she says.
Tough Road Ahead
Dayib has her work cut out for her. She is dealing with a highly patriarchal system which might not take her seriously simply because she is a woman. In fact, she has received a series of death threats which she says prove whoever sent them acknowledged that she is a capable leader who will threaten their existence. Dayib herself, is known to have said politics in Somalia is restricted to men with gray hair. Due to various threats against her life, Fadumo Dayib has had to use social media to raise awareness. She has been transparent about her campaign and finances, the end goal being to extend this transparency to government and do away with corruption. She is, however, getting the rotten end of the rope as Global Risk Insights has bemoaned the lack of universal suffrage, the exclusion of women from politics and the clan-based system of Somali politics. She has spoken out against the hold of the clans on politics, calling for emancipation from the clans but will it be enough? There is much work to be done but Dayib has already started conversations about leadership in Africa. The younger generations are finally standing up. Women are finally taking their place in the pilot seat. Africa will never be the same.
Image credit: Harvard Gazette