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Piloting small-scale businesses for displaced women

Source: Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) - Mon, 17 Dec 2012 02:01 PM
Author: Abdiaziz Bashir, NRC Puntland
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Any views expressed in this article are those of the author and not of Thomson Reuters Foundation.

It is early morning in Garowe, the capital of Puntland, a semi-autonomous state in Somalia. Hawo Mire, a 65 year old woman with seven children and 35 grandchildren, is patiently waiting at NRC’s training location together with almost 60 other displaced persons.
 
Hawo is dressed in a black gown and shawl, and walks with a gentle hunch on her back, a sign of her age and hardship. After a week of intensive training on book keeping and basic business management, the day has come for Hawo to receive her business goods. She moves slow, but determined when her name is called by the NRC food security officer who is facilitating the distribution. Once she has received her equipment, Hawo holds on to her items as if she is embracing it. With care, she opens the plastic bags and studies the clothing items provided by NRC’s food security team.

Income opportunities

Hawo has decided to sell the clothes and make more clothes from the textiles. Through the training, she has got basic accounting and business management skills.

“I am glad NRC has provided me with business support. I have been in Garowe for so long and I have not received much assistance from anyone. The clothes provided will give me an opportunity to earn some money. I’m very grateful,” Hawo says.

The training and distribution is conducted at the Somali women association centre (SWA). This location is considered almost a sanctuary in Garowe, providing vocational support to predominantly female populations in the town. Some of the participants have walked many miles to attend the training.

More than 142,000 people in Puntland are internally displaced, of Somalia’s 1.3 million IDPs. For NRC, Garowe is an important centre for providing support, care and durable solutions to displaced and poor host communities. In addition to food security and livelihoods, NRC is providing shelter and education, including school construction and teacher training.

Poor rains destroyed livelihoods

Hawo has been facing poverty and hardship for many years. She previously earned her livelihood as a pastoralist, but following poor rains her livestock perished. When her husband and main breadwinner of her family was severally injured in 2008, Hawo and her family had to move to Garowe to seek support from international aid agencies. It was hard for the family to adapt to a new situation with hardly any means to survive.

“Our living conditions were very bad. We were drinking out of puddles and sleeping outdoors with no protection. It was a very unsafe situation,” Hawo says.

Today, Hawo has come to terms with what has happened to her family, and with more than 7,000 IDPs living in Garowe, livelihood opportunities especially for elderly women are rare. Elderly women are some of the most vulnerable people in the IDP settlements. Hawo identifies herself as the poorest of the poor, with little support from available. The small scale business support is her only hope to secure a better future for her family.

Urged sustainable support

“The majority of IDPs in Garowe and Burao are agro-pastoralists from rural areas who usually rely upon cultivation or livestock rearing for their livelihoods. The lack of land access in settlements significantly hinders their food security. They also lack experience in entrepreneurial and business management skills for other work than farming,” said NRC’s Regional Food Security Manager, Quentin Le Gallo.

During 2012, NRC has conducted a food security project including a pilot livelihood project in Garowe and Burao, Somaliland. The pilot project aims at supporting and creating more sustainable livelihood opportunities for IDPs through farming input distribution and training. It also provides support to urban based income-generating activities, including vocational skills training, small scale business management training and start-up kit distribution. The project is funded by the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and targets 2,000 households from IDPs and host communities.

“Meetings with local governmental authorities, community leaders, elders and cash voucher beneficiaries in Somaliland and Puntland have highlighted the lack of sustainable support to vulnerable groups. Livelihood recovery oriented programming should be a priority, but funding is limited,” said Le Gallo.


In 2012, NRC in Somalia has assisted around 33,000 displaced affected households with food access improvement in response to the 2011 famine. Also, we supported 1,500 households with livelihood recovery support. In 2013, NRC is planning to increase early recovery activities aiming at strengthening food security resilience of displacement affected households. We thank our main donors, including the Government of Norway (MFA), Government of Sweden (SIDA), European Union (ECHO), UNHCR, and UNICEF.

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