A passionate advocate for promoting the rights of women and youth
Sahra Kooshin is a campaigner and advocate for women rights. She is also a well-known poet and author and currently works as the Deputy Executive Director and Programs Manager at the Somali Institute for Development and Research Analysis (SIDRA).
Born in Somalia, Ms. Kooshin left the country at the age of nine and completed her education in the Netherlands. She decided to return to Somalia ten years ago to support her own people.
“I felt I am more much needed here in Somalia than in Europe. I can contribute to the well-being and advancement of Somali people, especially women and youth,” she explains.
Sahra is determined to raise the voices of women within Somalia’s male-dominated society and encourage them to take part in peacebuilding activities and the reconstruction of the country.
“Somalia is a very patriarchal society. There are several stereotypes about women in the rural areas that they are not as good as men, they cannot make good decisions, they cannot be effective leaders, they cannot be very good role players. This is what prompts women to fight for their rights and to be heard so they can play a greater role in politics, governance, and leadership,” says Sahra.
The positive aspirations and dynamism of Somali women led them to demand a 30 percent quota of seats in the current federal parliament during the 2016 electoral process. They fell short of that goal, winding up with a 24 per cent share of the parliamentary seats. But Ms. Kooshin believes that young Somali girls can still have big dreams and help in the transformation of their country.
“If I can give you examples, we have seen recently the first Somali women presidential candidates, and a woman ran for the mayor’s office in (the Puntland state capital of) Garowe. Women are now ready to seek their spaces and authority and challenge existing structures,” adds Sahra.
Sahra also concentrates on issues of youth rights in the semi-autonomous state of Puntland.
“My daily message to the young people in Somalia is to believe in themselves, to believe in the possibility of a brighter and greater future of Somalia. I think Somali youth should be aware that each one of them has a role to play. But they should also ensure that whatever good work youths are doing must be in line with a level of sustainability and continuity that will make their contribution have a major impact”, she says.
“Our generations have many opportunities at their disposal. If you compare the Somalia of 20 years ago to the Somalia of today, you would realize there is a big difference in terms of the well-educated and energetic youths who are eager to contribute”, she adds.
Ms. Kooshin trains and mentors many young Somalis on a volunteer basis. She also offers career counselling and capacity building programs to enhance the expertise of young Somalis.
“I have helped many youths to become better leaders by acquiring more knowledge about how things work, how to write resumes, how to look for a job, how to excel in job interviews and sell ideas,” says Sahra.
Though she is based in Garowe, Sahra maintains an active engagement with women groups in other parts of the country.
“I have a very close partnership with Somali women in different regions. We have a Facebook page where we share knowledge, work together, and create stories. I have also established a SIDRA Initiative for Gender in Higher Education, where many women groups and individuals meet annually to exchange their knowledge and expertise”, she adds.