Energised and Motivated: The Youth Transforming Somaliland

Some of the youth representatives in the leadership training by SONYO. Dustin Barter/Oxfam
'Parliament is making decisions on youth, but no youth are involved in the decisions.'
Xuseen, aspiring youth politician

By AbdiAziz Adani and Dustin Barter

“Parliament is where problems facing society are discussed, but parliament has no youth. Parliament is making decisions on youth, but no youth are involved in the decisions,” explains Xuseen, a young, aspiring politician pushing for change in Somaliland.

“As a woman, the challenges are bigger because the clan doesn’t want to support me. Many people prefer men to represent the clan,” adds Ayan, who with Xuseen is motivated to improve their country.

As we sip tea and take in the sunset, the two are sharp and articulate, frustrated with youth exclusion from decision making, but far from disenchanted. In 2018, their participation in activities run by SONYO, a youth umbrella organization in Somaliland, and partner of Oxfam, honed their skills to match their enthusiasm.

Growing young leaders

“There was a series of three trainings on leadership: how to become a leader and leadership ethics, leadership role models, and leadership research. We also learned about campaigning leadership for women and youth,” recalls Xuseen.

“Apart from those topics, we also learned about how to bring youth and elders together, and see the benefits when we collaborate,” says Ayan.

“One of the biggest benefits (of the activities) was understanding the role of women in leadership and including women in community decision making. Here, we have 13 elected representatives and they are all men. If even five were women, it would be much better,” she adds.

Policy into Practice

Following the training, SONYO facilitated a conference between youth and elders, a setting for youth to not just put theory into practice, but also a tangible chance to kickstart the inclusion of youth in decision making.

“During and after the conference, we debated very heatedly. The elders argued they know more and there is unexpected conflict all the time, so we need elders because they understand clan structures. They used the words ‘as long as youth can jump over a tree, youth can jump over tough decisions.’ The meaning is that youth rush too much.

SONYO organized activities very well. After the elders’ arguments, we responded and gave examples. We also included religious examples. After long discussions, we got an agreement to allow youth to participate. 75% agreed to support youth in politics and decision making,” explains a confident Xuseen.

While the agreement is welcome, Ayan and Xuseen are pushing ahead regardless. Xuseen will run for the next parliamentary elections and Ayan will be a candidate for the next local council elections. Their enthusiasm is infectious and the mandate’s strong, as Ayan declares: “I will focus on education and health for all people. I want to improve the health system… Youth can bring about change… We have energy and motivation to improve our country.”

The Talo Wadaag programme is implemented by NAGAAD, Oxfam and SONYO, and funded by a 460,000 Euro grant from the European Union.