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Empowering Mogadishu youth through skills training and startup businesses

Deeqo Abukar Abdullahi, 22, comes from a family of four siblings. Both their parents died. Unfortunately, in 2020, she also lost her eldest brother, the breadwinner, to gunshot wounds following an attack by extremists in Mogadishu. Her elder sister took over as the head of the family. Deeqo had to seek a job at the Mogadishu Youth Center as a youth mobilizer to assist her sister in taking care of the family needs. The youth centre was just launching training in vacation skills.

“After working for a month at the youth centre, I decided to join the beauty class to attain skills in running a salon since I was earning little money as a volunteer,” says Deeqo.

She was among the first cohort of youth to enrol at the Abdiaziz Youth Center run by Mercy-USA for Aid and Development with support from UNFPA Somalia. A total of 361 learners enrolled to acquire skills in computing, tailoring, dressmaking, hairdressing, henna designing, beauty and basket weaving.

“I had no skills at all when I joined the youth centre. I chose to study beauty skills because I would admire how makeup enhanced people’s looks when attending weddings and parties. Most importantly, I wanted to gain skills that would enable me to create employment to support my family,” says Deeqo.

She explains that she could do henna designs on her family members and friends within two months of starting the course. She sat for her final assessment after four months of studying. “I graduated in December 2020 with a certificate in Henna Design and Beauty,” Deeqo says proudly.

Mercy-USA awarded the trainees with startup kits in their respective courses soon after graduation and supported them in setting up businesses. The startup kit which Deeqo received contained a hair washing machine, henna and mixing supplies and a facial steamer.

“I joined forces with two friends, Sabiriin Abdi and Naciimo Muse 20, who were also students at Abdiaziz Youth Friendly Centre. Together, we started up a home-based salon where we do henna and makeup for pop-in clients. Sometimes we are invited to people’s houses to do wedding and graduation henna and makeup. When business is slow in the district, we go to the nearby districts to find work,” says Deeqo.

For the past one-year many businesses have been adversely affected by COVID-19, and the home-based beauty salon by the three girls has not been left out. Few people are coming to the home-based salon and going to events such as weddings and parties. Nonetheless, Deeqo is optimistic that their business will thrive through the challenging economic times.

“We’re working towards investing more in the business. We require $3,000 to get proper space and to buy more equipment and supplies. We’re working towards that goal,” says Deeqo.

UNFPA Somalia Programme Coordinator for Youth and innovation Ms. Fatuma Kuno Muhumed says the youth centre has been influential in shaping the lives of youth in Mogadishu towards entrepreneurship and health choices.

“The vocational training at the centre is holistic. It focuses on offering skills, health information and counselling, safe space, empowerment and an interactional space to marginalized youth,” explains Ms. Muhumed.

In the long run, the youth-friendly program aims to increase youth partners’ capacity to implement comprehensive programs to reach marginalized youth, including adolescent girls at risk of child marriage.


                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             ---Pilirani Semu-Banda