Every morning she wished that she could join them. She had a dream that someday she would also go to school. Hafsa, the third born in her family, never had the opportunity to go to school because her mother, who is widowed, could not afford to meet the cost.
Poverty, conflict and traditional gender norms often hinder girls’ education. Those who manage to go to school are often older when they first enrol, and sometimes are absent for long periods due to seasonal migration and conflicts. Hafsa says: My mum could not meet the school fees and other costs related to school. And since there was no one to take care of the younger children, I took care of them as my mother went to the market. But Hafsa still held on to her dream. One day, her neighbour Suherya visited her and asked why she never went to school. Suherya is a pupil at Hiddaya Primary school. She is part of the Girls Empowerment Forum which supports girls to speak out and be their own leaders. Until then, Suherya would never have approached anyone to ask why they were not going to school.
The Girls Empowerment Forum (GEF) is part of the Somali Girls Education Project, funded by UK aid with additional support from the players of the People’s Postcode Lottery. The project works with schools, communities, religious leaders and the ministry of education in Somaliland, Puntland and Galmudug to increase marginalised girls’ access to quality post-primary education opportunities and improve learning outcomes. The Girls Empowerment Forum creates opportunities for girls to develop and practise leadership skills that include self-confidence and decision-making skills. This leads to girls increasing their ability to voice their needs and aspirations; engage in decision-making processes at the school and in the community, and lead local initiatives in support of their rights. Suherya herself says: “The GEF training has really influenced my thinking capacity and helped me to think about others in general.”.