I am deeply honored to have had the opportunity to interview Fadumo Dayib, Somalia's first female presidential candidate. In this interview, we talk Somali politics, Al-Shabaab, women's empowerment, and dreams for the future. Read the full Ayiba Magazine interview here and check out my favorite excerpt below.
I would not be who I am without my mother. My mother instilled in me from a very young age that you can do whatever you set your mind to. She would actually take me around so that I could visualize that future for myself. When I started interacting with my mother as a mature young woman was when I was able to negotiate with her about my education. Every Saturday, my mother and I would get in a taxi and she would ask me, “What do you want to do when you grow up?” I would say, “I want to work for the UN.” At the time, everyone wanted to be a Secretariat staff member at the UN complex in Gigiri. We would go there and she would say, “Do you see these gates, Fadumo? One day, you will walk through these gates. Keep that in your mind.” And I would respond, “no I can’t—I can’t even write.” She said, “Nonsense, you will. Keep this image in your mind.”
Then she’d say, “You’re working in the UN complex. Now, where do you want to live?” I’d respond, “I want to live in Spring Valley, where all the mzungu live.” We would go there and I’d point to the house in the compound where I wanted to live and she’d say, “keep it in your mind, and you will.” Then she’d say, “you work in the Gigiri complex and you live in this house, where do you want to shop?” I’d say, “Nakumatt.” We’d go there and she’d say, “ok, where next?” and I would say Sarit Center. We’d go there next.
Every Saturday, we would literally drive through my dreams and my vision for myself. You know, Akinyi, I walked through those gates in the UN complex, I lived in that compound in Spring Valley, and I shopped at Nakumatt and Sarit Center. I went everywhere my mother said I would go. Including to three universities in Finland and one in America. Everything she said to me, I’ve done.
Those people who doubt women are foolish. The world is running and functioning because of women. I am where I am today because of a very strong woman. All those men in high offices are where they are today because of strong women. It’s time for women to understand that we are the backbone of our continent and our countries. We need to formalize this leadership. We’ve carried these countries, these people on our backs for so long, and it’s time to have it recognized. Women are much stronger than many people would like us to believe or like us to know. People think my biggest challenge is my gender, but it’s also my biggest strength.