When a job offer brought Maimuna Farah Samatar back to her birthplace, the Galkacyo Mudug Region in Somalia’s Puntland State, she saw an additional opportunity to serve those who were most affected by the local conflicts—the women and children.
Maimuna has seen many people suffer throughout her more than 25 years as a doctor. She and her family, including her seven children, lived in Djibouti and Saudi Arabia for a time before returning to Somalia. Beyond her work in medicine, she is concerned about minority communities who seem resigned to a fate as second-class citizens. She works to educate minority groups to recognize that they are worthy of being full members of their communities.
When her work brought her back home to Galkacyo in 1997, she dedicated her time to improving the lives of the region’s most vulnerable groups.
In schools, she found traumatized children, but she also found that enrollment in schools was low. Many families simply saw no need to educate their children. For others, children were neglected while their mothers concentrated on providing food and shelter for them.
Maimuna mobilized women in the community and called on them to prioritize education and child care. She started the Hormud School to provide education to 120 children from all parts of the community.
Then, in 2001, she and a group of women founded the Puntland Minority Women’s Development Organization (PMWDO), whose mission is to improve social welfare and build the capacity of marginalized minority women and children. PMWDO provides primary education, health care services, trainings in environmental management and earning an income.
As a partner with AFSC, PMWDO is creating spaces for Somali communities to engage in activities that promote peace and emphasize the role of youth leadership. AFSC’s office in Kenya provides PMWDO moral, financial, and technical support.
Now PMWDO’s executive director, Maimuna employs youth in all of the organization’s programs in order to enhance their knowledge and skills—both for their personal development and for Somalia’s. One day she would like to see these youth and the minority community they serve holding high positions in high places. “As a mother and a community doctor, I call upon the youth to put down the gun and embrace peace.”
Influencing such change is hard work, but a strong will and fearlessness have seen her through most of the hurdles. She also credits her good working relationships with local authorities and the state.
She already sees signs of change. Many of the conflict-related problems in Galkacyo have lessened, including a decrease in the number of killings and an increase in the construction and establishment of infrastructure and businesses.
She also hopes that one day the organization’s reach will extend nationwide. In order to give a stronger voice to champion minorities in Somalia, she would like to form an umbrella of all minority organizations within the country and the Somali diaspora. Such a coalition would serve as a resource to share information to bring about development.