SOMALIA: Fartun Abdi Hashi, "I really would like to make a difference in someone's life"

Published: November 2, 2011

The pad-making project has turned Fartun Abdi Hashi into her family's main provider
Fartun Abdi Hashi, 22, arrived in the central Somali town of Galkayo in 2001 with her parents after fleeing violence in southern Somalia.
For years, Hashi’s home has been an overcrowded camp for the internally displaced in Galkayo. Attending a regular school was not an option for her since her family could not afford the fees, so she learnt the Koran until she had a chance to join a centre for girls run by the Galkayo Education Centre for Peace and Development (GECPD), an organization that helps girls.
Hashi’s family had previously depended on her parents doing casual labour but with Hashi joining a sanitary-pad-making project at the centre, she is now the family’s main bread-winner. She spoke to IRIN about her experience as a long-term displaced person:
“We first came here when I was 12. I did not know what to expect, except that there was no shooting and killing [here]. We settled in the Doro camp with hundreds of other families. Life was very hard. Both my mother and father went out of the camp daily to try to find work so we could eat.
“Sending me or any of my siblings to school was not an option; we learned the Koran from a teacher in the camp, that was all. Some days, I would go with my mother to help and I would see other children going to school.
“I really wanted to go to school but I knew that was not possible, until I came to school here [Galkayo Education Centre for Peace and Development]. I began normal schooling but because of my age [16 by then] I also started learning tailoring. My mother did not object to my going to school. She told me if I could do anything to help she would be happy.
“I continued learning for some time but had to stop at the sixth grade because by then I was a big girl and I wanted to help my mother. Luckily, the centre offered me a job as a tailor.
“Today, I am one of dozens of girls making sanitary pads and underwear for young girls [so] they don’t drop out of school.
“Previously, many of the girls – even in here – were too embarrassed to admit that they had their periods. Some did not come to school, while others used unhygienic material. I remember some girls using writing paper or even leaves from the trees. Others used old and dirty clothes. Now we all use these new pads that we make and they are safe and washable.
“Of all the girls working here, I make the most pads and make the most money. I made US$150 last month; I never imagined that I would be making this kind of money. I am now the main supporter of my family. I am paying the school fees for three of my siblings. The work has also allowed me to enrol in a private school so I can get a secondary-school diploma.
“My ultimate goal is to go university and become a teacher. I really would like to make a difference in someone’s life. The centre has given me and many other girls like me a chance in life.”