Connect with us

Arts and Culture

Meet Somalia’s trailblazing female camel trader

Published

on

Every morning just before sunrise, Zamzam Yusuf makes the short drive between her house in Kismayo to a farm about 30 kilometres (19 miles) outside the Somali port city.

Tired with life in London where she worked as a carer for more than 10 years, the 55-year-old decided to return home three years ago.

With almost all sectors of Somalia’s commerce destroyed due to more than 20 years of civil war, Zamzam spotted an – unlikely – business opportunity and swiftly acted upon it.

“Many thought it was a bad idea. Others laughed at me. My own family advised me against [it] – but it is the best business decision I have ever made,” she says.

Zamzam is a camel trader, a job often reserved for men in the conservative country in the Horn of Africa.

Of the world’s estimated 35 million camels, Somalia, a country of more than 15 million people, houses more than seven million camels – the highest number per country globally.

Livestock is the backbone of the Somali economy with more than 65 percent of the population engaged in some way in the industry, according to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization. But it is extremely rare to see a woman at any of the busy camel markets in the East African country.

“When men found out what I do, they told me it is not a woman’s job. That it is too difficult and I should leave it to them,” Zamzam, a mother of seven, says.

The industry is lucrative with a fully mature camel costing $1,400 and the young ones going for at least $900. Most of the camels are exported to the Middle East where they command a premium.

The milk, often referred to as white gold, also brings in a decent return. In Kismayo, one litre (33.8 fluid ounces) of camel milk is sold for $1 and Zamzam’s herd produces at least 400 litres (105.7 gallons) a day.

“First, I started with 30 camels. But slowly the herd has grown. Now the total is 145 camels and growing,” she says, as dozens of calves bleat in the background.

“The target is to have more than 1,000 camels. God willing.

In a bid to expand her business, which employs 10 people, Zamzam decided to join forces with two other traders. 

“I had no other choice but to have two men as business partners,” she says. “I wish more women could join me but that is very difficult. Most women here think it is a job for men.”

When she is not busy tending to her herd or dealing with orders, Zamzam spends her time visiting schools and women’s workshops where she tries to convince them to give camel trading a chance.

At Kismayo’s Alanley area, Zamzam has found eager listeners among those taking sewing classes at the Awale Womens’ Group.

“If a woman can raise children, which everyone agrees is a very tough work, we can easily look after camels,” 32-year-old Khadra Abdullahi says.

“Camels are part of our culture and who we are. I want to become like Zamzam. If men can do it we can do it, too. We are strong, too. Some people have the wrong mindset and it is up to us women to prove them wrong.” she adds, while other women in the workshop nod in agreement.

But at the city’s restaurants and tea stalls, the mood is different. Men are dismissive of the idea of women joining the industry. They know of Zamzam, but in a deeply conservative society where many men believe women should stay at home, they avoid using her name when talking about her.

“My advice for the mother from the diaspora is: Looking after camels is difficult. It brings lots of work and worries. It is not a challenge a woman can handle,” Khadar Khalif Hersi, a businessman, says.

“I will strongly advise her to find something else to do and to leave it to us, men. There is a reason why other women are not doing it. She should be like other women,” the 40-year-old adds.

The industry is dominated by men who have never had to compete with a female trader and they find the idea of being challenged by Zamzam unpalatable.

But Zamzam has loyal and vocal support from the young men she has employed.

“I have been working with her for two years. I like [it] and I don’t see any problems with her doing this job,” Abdullahi Mohamed Aden, one of the camel herders, says.

“It is not against our religion in any way so it is OK. She is a good woman and she is doing something good. Otherwise, I wouldn’t be working for her,” he adds.

For Zamzam, nothing will stop her from pursuing her chosen career.

“I’m doing this for my grandchildren. I want them to come back to their country and have a good life. Life in Europe is hard and opportunities are few. Somalia has more opportunities for them,” the grandmother-of-29 says.

“The men can say what they want. I will not stop. No way,” she adds, laughing.

Source: Al Jazeera

Continue Reading
Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Somalia: Changing the Narrative

A Somali Imam is Using Storytelling To Change Society and Political System

The Imam in a Mogadishu mosque discusses current affairs; he touched on the political fight between Donald Trump and Ilhan Omar, a Somali-born US Congresswoman, the Somalia,-Kenya maritime dispute and relations between the federal and regional governments, among others

Published

on

Stories matter. People make sense of the world through stories and shape up how we understand it. Somalia requires new stories, but people will listen when they themselves are included in the story-line. An Imam at a mosque in Somalia’s capital, Mogadishu, is doing exactly that, offering a new narrative to show what is possible. Sheikh Abdi Hayi is shifting gears and is bringing new ways of telling stories in an unlikely place: a mosque. Sheikh Abdi Hayi, a brown taqiyah atop his head, white and black-dotted turban draped over his shoulders, and in a white thobe, captivates his audience.

Somalis are now giving more attention to his sermons than they would a politician’s speech. The difference between the two is obvious – Abdi’s’s is entertaining and informative. Politicians focus on how their clans could capture power in the next elections.

For the last three decades, politicians have failed to change the country and get it out of a 30-year-old mess. Somalia’s problems cannot be solved by doing more of the same. New narratives like that of Sheikh Abdi’s are needed – connecting people’s motivations and promoting radical actions. Sheikh Abdi’s stories engage people’s minds, emotions and imaginations, which are drivers of real change – a change Somalia so desperately needs.

Sheikh Abdi focuses on social, cultural and political issues as well as current affairs in his Friday summons, using ‘once upon a time’ tales from pre-television and social media days, and uses examples from the Koran and Hadith – the sayings of Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon on him.

“I discuss what people think are important in their lives and what interest them. You can guide people in the mosque, this should be the place to discuss what matters to people, it could also be a rehabilitation centre,” he says.

In one of his summons, the Imam discussed relations between the federal and regional governments, and the latter’s opposition to the government in Mogadishu.

“These state governments you see are not what they seem to be. It is tribal governments,” he says.

Somalia has five state governments, created under the country’s federal system, each maintaining their own police and security forces which have a degree of autonomy over their affairs, but are subject to the authority of the federal government. Regional governments tend to oppose the federal government irrespective of who wields power in Mogadishu. Major clans lead each of these regional governments.

Sheikh Abdi urges Somalis to abandon clannism and work toward one Somalia.

“Our sister Ilhan Omar is fighting US President Donald Trump. Ilahn and Trump are at the same level. The US Constitution protects both of them,” he told a congregation at a mosque in Mogadishu.

“Ours is a system that no one understands. We do not have a clear path to follow. Why can’t we agree on a system that will guide us?”

“We’ve been doing this for the last 30 years, can we wait for another 30?” he posed.

Our system is like a person suffering from malaria and continues to take paracetamol drugs to relieve pain and reduce fever instead of going to see a doctor to seek medical care to eradicate the disease from his body, he says.

Although gains were made in the last few years, Somalia’s central government is still weak and wrangles between itself and the regional governments are a factor slowing down further progress.

Sheikh Abdi’s stories are now inspiring Somali communities around the world and they are being shared across dinner tables and mobile phone screens.

Continue Reading

Arts and Culture

Rise in HIV/Aids infection among youth in Garissa shocking

Published

on

The National Aids Control Council (NACC) has raised concern over rising cases of new HIV infection among young people in Garissa County.

Garissa regional coordinator Wario Boru attributed the growing threat to lack of parental guidance.

Also Read  Grade three pupils begin national assessment

Speaking in Garissa during a HIV and Aids Tribunal workshop that sought to sensitize area residents on their rights of HIV and Aids testing, Boru said that lack of sexual health knowledge coupled with unprotected sex among young people has seen the number of new infections increase in recent days.

Boru says the county prevalence estimates of 2018 was 0.8% meaning one out of 125 people live with HIV.

North Eastern is considered the region with highest percentage of HIV stigma in the country due to socio-cultural factors.

Source: Kenya Broadcasting Corporation

Continue Reading

Trending

About
The Frontier is for the people — not the politicians, lobbysts and the powerful. We provide indepth and thoughtful analysis of what is happening around your world. We tell exclusive stories that matter to our audience, so they make better decisions and understand what is real.
Privacy Policy
The Frontier is committed to putting its users first. We strive to be transparent about how we collect and use your data and information, to keep them secure and to provide you meaningful choices. This Privacy Policy is meant to help you understand what information we collect, why we collect it and what we do with it

Copyright © 2017-2019 The Frontier. All Rights Reserved.