One defining fact emanating from Somalia’s disastrous civil war is the innate resilience and endurance of our mothers, that despite against all odds — they marched on. However, many of us do not know that they already underwent a similar arduous task, not as grown women but as young girls on a noble mission, cemented in Somalia’s history, to educate a whole population. Over 5,000 young Somali females made history 42 years ago.
Fadumo Hashi writes (for Women’s International Democratic Federation):
“All in all 21,421 students, teachers and government personnel were deployed in the campaign. Of these 5,000 were women, and as we shall elaborate later, Somali women played a significant role in this historic campaign. The motto of the literacy campaign was “If you know, teach, if you don’t know, learn”. The role played by women in the literacy campaign was fundamental. It was also two-fold: a teaching role and a learning role. Based on the experience that a Somali woman will endure as much hardship as her male counterpart, women teachers and female students from Mogadishu, the capital, were assigned to eradicate illiteracy amongst the most populous region that is the countryside. The main task of most of the women assigned for this region was the spreading of literacy among the population, and this these women teachers and students were determined to do, both among the female and male population.
To start with, about 2,940 women were assigned by the campaign to the region, their ages, excluding the 238 regular teachers varied from 14 to 19. These girls between the ages of 14—19 were to shoulder the following responsibilities: to mobilize the masses for literacy and nursing classes” (Women of the Whole World, 1977)