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This refugee is running to be Somalia’s first female president

Harvard Kennedy School Mid-Career/Mason Fellow Fadumo Dayib. She is a Somalian refugee who left her country in the 90s during civil war to live in Finland. As an adult, she worked for the UN, and after leaving HKS, she is running for president of Somalia in 2016. She is pictured outside Harvard Kennedy School. Stephanie Mitchell/Harvard Staff Photographer

This refugee is running to be Somalia’s first female president

Is this incredible woman the future of Somalia?

This refugee is running to be Somalia’s first female president

When a civil war broke out in Somalia in 1989, Fadumo Dayib was tasked with the harrowing responsibility of escaping with her to younger siblings. Forced to leave her parents behind, Dayib set off for safety, ending up in Moscow where the kindness of a Russian man helped her and her siblings find safe passage to Helsinki, where she has spent the rest of her days.

Despite overwhelming odds, and not being able to read until the age of 14, Dayib thrived in her new home.

“When I came to this country, they didn’t give up on me. I had a bachelor’s in nursing, got two master’s from Finland. In addition to the one from Harvard, I have three master’s and now currently doing my Ph.D,” Dayib shared in an interview with NPR . “So Finland gave me the skills that I want to take back to my country.”

Although she was safe, healthy and happy in her adopted country, Dayib knew there was something missing. She knew she had a calling elsewhere.

“My mother lost 11 children. I am the first of her children to survive. And that means to me there is something much bigger than me being on this earth and doing other things,” she told NPR.

This calling beckoned her back to native Somalia, a country with a long history of oppression and a harrowing human rights record – especially if you were female. She decided then that she needed to make a change. And so, Dayib is now running to be selected as Somalia’s first female president.

She knew that this ‘bigger picture’ did not come without extreme risks: “When I was going to Mogadishu in January, I sat them down and I told them that I’m leaving you, but I’m not sure I might come back. And if I don’t, then you have to know that you are also expected to do this. When the day comes and you have the capability to do so, you must fight for democracy.

“We must not let evil overcome goodness. And they understand why we need to do this for Somalia because they share the love that I have for Somalia.”

“I see what I’m doing as a moral obligation and a civic duty towards my country. I’ve watched for almost 26 years, hoping for a competent leadership to come that can bring us all back. There’s 1.5 million Somalis in the diaspora, 1.2 million internally displaced inside the country. And they’re all yearning to have a dignified existence to go back.”

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