I WENT TO MOGADISHU, SOMALIA TO HELP BUILD THE 1ST-EVER NATIONAL YOUTH POLICY
I’ve taken my time in writing this because I wanted to honour the experience. It has been a process that is personally gratifying for me and I am currently giving it time and reflection. Here are my preliminary thoughts and will try to release more reflections..
I was invited by the Somali Government to help build what would be the first ever National Youth Policy and participate in a series of talks that would envision an inclusive youth framework.
The conference was titled “Shirwaynaha Qaranka ee Dhalinyiradda, The National Youth Conference”. The two day conference was held in the United Nations Compound in Mogadishu. There were over 130 young people who were delegates at this conference. There were about 15 folks who came from the Diaspora. The rest of the conference delegates came from cities and towns that spanned from Ras Caseyr to Ras Kamboni.
I met young people from Banadir, Buhoodle, Burco, Bosaso, Cerigabo, Ceeldheer, Baydhabo, Bay + Bakool, Beledweyne, Garissa, Jigjiga, Kismayo, Lascaanood, Hargeisa, Galkacyo, Jubbaland, Shabelle Dhexe, Waqooyi Galbeed, and many other cities/regions/territories in Somalia.
I also met young people who lived in Turkey, Sudan, Mozambique, China, Dadaab, Ukraine, Rotterdam/Holland, UK, United States of America, Canada, and the UAE. The conference had delegates who spoke Af-May and other dialects of the Somali language. We were diverse in thoughts and ideas. I never would have had the opportunity to sit with young people from all across the Somali Nation.
We had honest conversations around unemployment, nepotism, power, privilege, colonialism, imperialism, and hierarchy of oppression. We also had conversations around positive community building ideas such as how can we mobilize investments towards youth projects, social impact bonds + microfinancing for youth business ideas, strategies on building networked youth centres across the country, regulating media, expanding art + history projects, beautification projects in Somalia, social movement campaigns targeting social issues such as the Somali migrant crisis, reforming the education institutions, and, finally, what does the role of youth in the healing and national reconciliation process look like in Somalia.
These were just some of the things we discussed in the short time we were together. I truly felt vibrations from the Somali Youth League, the 13 young men who fought for the Independence of Somalia. I truly believe that our young people can change the nation.
Somali youth are the most resilient young people in this world. They have fought for their existence in ways that words cannot describe. Everyday they imagine new realities for themselves. They have hopes and dreams. They’re innovative and bold in their approach. They are the current leaders of Somalia and are in need of leadership opportunities.
The young people I met in Mogadishu are tired of waiting. They are tired of political processes that do not serve their interest. Somali youth represent 70% of the population in Somalia. It was very apparent to me that the young people understood the power that they collectively have — they will continue to push for more political representation, employment opportunities, and for a better Somalia.
There is a lot that I want to say about my experience in Somalia. I was struck by the beauty of Mogadishu. I was impressed by the absolute love and hospitality that we were greeted with during my time in the motherland.
I want to share my gratitude to the conference organizers who worked tirelessly and around the clock to make this happen. I was incredibly inspired by the Somali Police Force and the Somali Military.
I was grateful for the way they took care of our safety and how they coordinated security in such a meaningful way. I was grateful for the Minister of Youth and Sports who explicitly showed his solidarity for the young people. I was grateful for the representatives of the Somali Government who were really candid and real about the reality + experiences of young people in Somalia. They did not shy away from the tough questions and really spoke to the heart of the matter.
This has been an experience of a lifetime. I really want want to thank the organizers who did such phenomenal job, beyond blessed to know Somalia has you all. I really want to thank all the amazing young people that I had the opportunity to meet and the fantastic youth activist who kept it 100 throughout the conference.
Thank you for all the amazing things that you do and I pray that we meet again and continue to build Somali youth across the world.
There are many perceptions around the role of Diaspora and the role of local youth in rebuilding the country of Somalia. We all have our part to play. We should let no one divide us. I want to share a short story. When I was leaving Mogadishu, I went to the lounge to grab breakfast and I saw that the whole lounge was filled with non-Somali people.
Apparently, they were leaving Somalia and heading to their respective homes for Christmas. I was pretty surprised that my whole flight had less than 10 Somali people. I asked a young man at the Airport why there were so many non-Somali people here in Somalia and he said “while you are away and touring other countries, there are other people who are building and benefitting from yours”. He proceeded to tell me “these non-Somali people will take your place until you all decide to come back and build your country”. I felt my stomach knot and then that is when I knew that this trip has officially changed my life in ways that I cannot describe.