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Hafsa Essa Hassan is a 25-year-old woman, born and raised in Hargeisa. After four years of dedication and hard work, she graduated from the Faculty of Urban Planning and Management from the University of Hargeisa. Despite a degree, and as many youths from sub–Saharan Africa, she tasted the bitter fruits of unemployment. It was a difficult time, as she powerlessly witnessed her parents struggling to feed her large, low-income family, while simultaneously wanting to send their children to schools like all their neighbors.

Hafsa spent her time applying to every job vacancy she could find and making physical visits to potential employers. However, as a fresh graduate with no previous working experience in a country where nepotism and favoritism is common, her efforts bore little fruit. Nevertheless, she never stopped trying.

One day, Hafsa saw an advertisement on a Shaqodoon’s social media platform about skill development and match-funding opportunities from a UNFPA project titled “Accelerate Socio-Economic Empowerment for Youth in Somaliland”. She decided to apply and after a few weeks, she was called for an interview, after which she was selected as one of the beneficiaries of the program. Hafsa participated in a two-week comprehensive training on entrepreneurship topics, such as the importance of entrepreneurship; business idea development; marketing and sales; operations management; financial literacy and budgeting; business models; and how to develop business plans and pitching.

After successful completion of the training, Hafsa attended a ‘demo-day’ organized by Shaqodoon, during which the trainees could pitch their business ideas in front of a diversified panel of judges. 

The competition was tough with over 70 youths presenting their initiatives and providing unique contributions to the community. Hafsa was one of the top ten trainees and was awarded a seed capital of 2,000 EUR (approximately USD$2260) to invest in her business idea. The seed capital is provided by the European Union (EU) through the Inclusive Local and Economic Development (ILED) programme, a multi-sector programme with the objective is to contribute to stability in Somalia by an integrated territorial approach supporting local governance and stabilization, promoting inclusive economic opportunities and protecting the most vulnerable. In addition, Hafsa managed to collect another USD$600 through Shaqodoon’s Tarmiye crowdfunding platform. 

On 1 January 2021, Hafsa launched SIRAAD Decoration & Sweets in Mohamed Mooge district in Hargeisa. Her business provides event management, such as venue decoration, wedding and party cakes and decoration of vehicles, including handmade flowers. 

Since she established her business, Hafsa has employed staff and opened a training department that offers trainings to those who wish to learn the skills required for event management. In April 2021, she provided training for 20 women from low-income communities, and she is currently training another 15 women on creating handmade flowers and other event decorations techniques. Hafsa’s ambition is to open other branches throughout Hargeisa and across the country.