Fadumo Dayib has led a remarkable life. She mourned the loss of siblings, fled her country, was deported, and then became just another number among the many refugees in Europe. Despite these obstacles, Dayib went on to get a Master’s degree at Harvard and work for the United Nations. Having already achieved more than expected, Dayib is looking to beat even slimmer odds by running to be Somalia’s president.
Somalia is one of the world’s most dangerous places; it’s even worse if you’re a woman.
The strife began in the 1980s when opposition regimes started an uprising against Somalia’s dictatorial president, Siad Barre. Although Barre is dead, the conflict never ceased. Terrorist groups, such as Al Shabaab, have emerged and piracy around the horn of Africa is rampant.
Dayib is one of millions who have had to flee the conflict. The 43-year-old was born in Kenya where her mother moved to after losing 11 children to treatable illnesses. But the family’s stay in Kenya was short-lived as the country began forceful deportations in 1989.
Her mother sold all her possessions for Dayib and her two siblings to seek asylum in Finland. After only learning to fully read and write at the age of 14, Dayib proceeded to get two Master’s degrees in public health and nursing. She later got another Master’s from Harvard in public administration.
Dayib has worked for prestigious institutions, including the United Nations. Not content, she walked away from the safety and relative comfort of Finland to the gunshots and grenade attacks of Somalia.
“It is because I love Somalia. I have lived in the diaspora since 1990, but I knew my roots were in Somalia. I moved to Finland as a refugee and I was sure that one day I would go back to Somalia. To me, being a refugee didn’t mean I should never go back to my homeland,” she says.
She returned home to be a part of the change she hoped to see.
“I watched from the sidelines as the country lost it, women died unnecessarily, children died of treatable diseases, elders were neglected, among other injustices. I thought that I did not need to do this but it was my moral obligation and civic duty.”
Since announcing her intention to run, Dayib has received death threats.
“If we all give up, what will become of our country? I am compelled to choose between death and life, if need be, so that at least we can have a peaceful country,” she says.
“I would like to go home, over 1.2 million Somalis would like to go home from the diaspora, there are one million people who are internally displaced and they all want a dignified existence in their own country. I believe if one dies fighting for something they believe in, that’s the most dignified death,” she says.
She does not see herself as a politician.
“I am a layperson who feels that the time has come for us to take power and responsibility from politicians because they are not doing what they set out to do. Rather than sit and complain, I am of the opinion that we need to take charge,” says Dayib.
In Somalia, many believe that women hold no place in leadership. From the onset, political pundits have shrugged her off, saying the odds are stacked against her.
Her humility and grace means she doesn’t take offence to this. As others campaigned against her, Dayib knew she had already won.
“My ultimate goal is to instigate social change by challenging the current status quo. In a country, continent and society like mine, where a woman’s space is mostly considered to be in a private place, at home, my candidacy inspires a lot of women, young girls as well as the youth. I am a catalyst; my aim is to open doors for my children and their children for social change,” she says.
In that regard, whatever happens at the poll, she has already won.