Sunday, August 07, 2016

Meet Fadumo Dayib: The Woman Risking Everything to Become Somalia's First Woman President
By Philip Lewis August 04, 2016

Fadumo Dayib wants to be Somalia's first female president — and the stakes are high.

The African country has not only seen decades of civil war, violence and political instability, but was also considered one of the top five most dangerous countries in the world for women.

Somalia's former women's minister, Maryan Qasim, agreed. If "asked where is the most dangerous place to be a woman I would have said with certainty Somalia," Qasim told Thomson Reuters Foundation in 2011. "The most dangerous thing a woman in Somalia can do is to become pregnant."

Dayib, 43, wants to change all of that.

"I'm not a politician, I'm actually a layperson," the mother of four said in a phone interview. "I'm a person who believes that making a difference in your country is a moral obligation. It's a civic duty that is incumbent on all of us."

Dayib faced many challenges along the way before making her historic announcement. Born in Kenya, her family was forced to move back to Somalia amid tension between the neighboring countries when she was young. When civil war broke out, her family was forced to move to Finland as refugees. It was Finland where Dayib became fully literate, learning to read and write at the age of 14.

From there, she went on to obtain multiple degrees in public health, earned a master's degree from Harvard in public administration and spent several years as a health care specialist with organizations such as the United Nations and UNICEF. She is currently working on her doctoral degree, focusing on women's governmental participation and empowerment in post-conflict regions.

Even though Dayib built a life for herself and her family in Finland, she still felt an obligation toward her country of origin.

It was during her time with the United Nations that she felt as though a leader should step up and help push for change in Somalia. "When I started my Ph.D. studies, I realized there is no leader that was forthcoming. Perhaps I am the person that I'm looking for," Dayib said. "And that is when I took the position that Somalia mattered to me very, very much. I could no longer wait. We need to go back home.

"And even though home is not a welcoming place, is not a peaceful place, we should do everything possible to make it so," she said. "We all want to go back home, to be at home and that is why I took it upon myself to do this."

Not everyone is ready for a woman to step into the role of president in Somalia.

"In terms of the challenges that faces a woman, I think those are the same challenges that Hillary Clinton is grappling with as we speak in the U.S.," Dayib said. "When a woman wants to step into a territory that is male dominated, then strange things happen. One of those strange things is fear and the second thing is resistance."

Dayib, whose platform focuses on security and economic prosperity, also pointed out the differences between American and Somali politics. "You have an old democracy that has paved the way for President Obama and will pave the way also for Hillary Clinton. We don't have that in Somalia."

"You have an old democracy that has paved the way for President Obama and will pave the way also for Hillary Clinton. We don't have that in Somalia."

Dayib believes that she is a breath of fresh air from regular Somalia politics.

"What makes me different from the other 18 candidates is the fact that I've not been involved with Somalia politics, so I'm really coming in with a clean record," she said. "I've not pillaged, I've not raped, I've not stolen, I've not been accused of corruption, I've not been involved in skirmishes, I'm not affiliated with any religious group or organization in the country. I'm actually an independent candidate. That's something that Somalia has never seen before. This is my platform."

She has received death threats during her campaign and has prepared her will in case something should happen to her. But Dayib sees these challenges as a positive thing.

"In terms of the threats that I've been getting, I see that actually as a positive sign that I am doing the right thing," the Harvard alumna said. "As a result of what I am doing, Somali women will no longer be relegated to the back rooms and told to stay there. They'll come out and they'll never go back. I'm not surprised; in fact, I'm actually flattered that these cowards would be quaking or quivering in their sandals or whatever they wear just because I happened to step forward."

The current president of Somalia, Hassan Sheikh Mohamud, has been in office since September 2012.

Somalia has faced many challenges in the past two decades. The African country was torn apart by warlords, lacked the ability to establish a functioning government and was ravaged by natural disasters.  But steps have been made in order to rebuild the economy and the country's administration.

Although Dayib planned to run in the Somali presidential election in August, the Somali government has pushed its election back potentially to January or February 2017. Essentially, Somalia will not have a formal government until the new election process.

"It will lead to anarchy because you do not have a legal government in place," Dayib said.

But this presidential candidate is hopeful.

"We hope that sanity will prevail," she said. "That goodness will overcome. We shall see. We are still optimistic because there's nothing else you can do."

Philip Lewis is a programming editor at Mic. He was previously an editorial fellow for 'The Huffington Post'. He can be reached at
Follow @phil_lewis_

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