A Somalia Policewoman’s story of hope and determination

Police officer Ridwan Abdi Iman beat the odds of a disadvantaged childhood

5 Mar 2017

A Somalia Policewoman’s story of hope and determination

Ridwan Abdi Iman was born in the village of Farjana Kismayo, twenty five years ago when the first wave of Somalis began fleeing across the border into neighbouring countries to escape the chaos caused by the collapse of the Siad Barre government in 1991.

“I was a toddler but my mother told me that we never fled to seek for asylum in the neighbouring countries such as Kenya where a majority of Somalis fled,” Iman recalls.

Further tragedy struck the family when her father died while she was young. Her mother, a strong capable woman, would have to raise Iman and her siblings alone despite very difficult challenges brought about by the loss of their father.

From the proceeds of her mother’s little shop in Kismaayo and a food kiosk she ran with her mother and three sisters, Iman was able to enroll in her first school.

“After going through the Quranic school I started assisting my mother together with my three sisters to run a shop in the ARCO neighborhood”, said Iman, who is now a police officer based in Jubbaland state administration.

As she grew up in Kismaayo, she was exposed to the suffering of women during the numerous wars that engulfed Somalia after the collapse of the government and attempts by several groups to take charge of Mogadishu.

It was this suffering that shaped her determination to join the police force so she could make a difference in the lives of vulnerable groups.

“In 2016 I decided to join the Somali Police to assist my society especially the young girls and to protect them from sexual violence”, Iman says.

To qualify as a police officer, she had to undergo a rigorous three months of training by the African Union Mission in Somalia and United Nations police trainers at the Kismayo Police training school near Mogadishu airport.

Prior to joining the police force, she realized she needed to communicate not just in Somali but also in English because her job would entail dealing with people from different backgrounds and languages. So in 2014 she joined a private school in Kismayo to learn English and also how to read and write.

Iman is now one of the few women police officers serving in the Somali Police Force and based in Kismaayo.

She says of her dream career; “I am very happy serving my community and assisting vulnerable women. It warms my heart when I see women’s smiling faces.”

Iman is now specializing in training to be a specialist in gender-based sexual violence. And now that she is a qualified police officer, she says her focus is to lift up the young girls by advocating for education for them.

Iman's story is part of a series aimed at celebrating the women of Somalia on the occassion of International Women's Day on 8th March.

#Womenleadershipresilience:Envisioning a new Somalia