Somali women embracing men “only” skills to make ends meet

Historically, women have been few in the auto repair industry. Much of this has been due to stereotypes that this is a male field and women cannot lift heavy machinery. Women have been thought not to have interest in motor vehicles while men are perceived to have better grasp of vehicles. The story of Halima Haji 24 year old divorced mother of two is an exception. Born and raised in Kismayo, and from a humble background, she is able to beat at all odds and stigma related to her newly found career.

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Halima dropped out of school at the age of six. Later on, she married a young man of her age who did not have any income that could sustain the family. They moved to Bosaso, her husband’s ancestral home. Within three years and two children, Halima’s marriage fell apart and she moved back to Kismayo. . Halima, having no skill to earn herself a job, and no source of income, Halim Enrolled herself in the SADO project PEACE DIRECT. “I joined SADO/Peace direct programme and chose auto mechanics. I want to become the second female mechanic in Somalia as I watched the first girl from local TVs who became a role model for me” Halima said. “People see it strange for Somali girls, one of the most conservative cultures, to do mechanics. It harder for me to work in the male dominated field but I want to be the first female mechanic ever operate in Kismayo and change this male dominated work to a normal one in which both men and women could share and benefit in the near future” she added.

Figure 1: 1Halima inspecting a vehicle that has been brought for engine problem

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Halima graduated from the auto mechanic course that spanned six months and was awarded a completion certificate and a start-up grant of USD 500. This start up grant is too small for the field. She then partnered with her mother to start an auto shop. Halima also works in the nearby garage she works voluntarily in order to improve work experience on mechanic skill. Now Halima mind is changed and inspired. “Before I joined SADO training program, I was quite distressed, hopeless, always think thinking about my future and how my mother has had to should my children’s bills. I now see a future for my children”