This week we spoke with Anisa Hajimumin who is the former Minister of Women Development and Family Affairs in Puntland, Somalia. Ms Hajimumin accomplished many great feats during her time as a minister, which include ensuring the passing and implementation of the Sexual Offence Bill in Puntland, establishing the Alternative Care Policy (a policy meant to ensure the creation of homes and care services for orphaned and abandoned children) and the creation of the Puntland Disability Center amongst many other things.
Anisa Hajimumin has over 15 years of experience in management, policy advocacy and planning/development in gender development and women empowerment initiatives. She is currently a development consultant that oversees strategic planning and implementation processes for local agencies operating in the United States.
Name: Anisa Hajimumin
What did you want to be when you were growing up?
Growing up, I had dreamed of becoming a surgeon though ironically, I enjoyed neither science nor math. I enjoyed writing, making up stories, and retelling them as if they were true. This was something that I realized in my early adult years. My teachers also told me that writing was a great strength of mine. However, my dreams were always intertwined with helping others which is a passion of mine.
Who were your biggest role models growing up?
My uncle, my mother’s brother. He lost his mother at a very young age. He was self-taught, a true activist for social justice and went on to study renewable energy and wind power in the United States in the mid-’80s. His dream was to help every household in Somalia have access to electricity. He was a dreamer and a doer who strategically mapped out his life plans and acted upon them. He always reminded me to study and to be a lifelong learner.
Besides my uncle, it was also my father who had a major influence on my studies and the way I carried and represented myself both publicly and privately. He succeeded in making our household a gender-neutral one, hence empowering and inspiring my siblings and me to defy customs and traditions and to uphold girls’ rights. Except for basic stuff, I have never needed to do household chores and that allowed me to study and focus on my personal growth.
What is one thing that you would like to tell your younger self?
Have boundaries! I am very compassionate and always love to help. This can create a major burden on myself and my life growth. In my early twenties, it was a major issue I had to deal with. I was someone that rescued everyone that asked for my help. It took me time to learn to say no and to have boundaries.
What was a life-changing moment you experienced that shaped you into the woman that you are today?
Being appointed as the Minister of Women Development and Family Affairs in Puntland opened my eyes to so much. I saw firsthand the plight poor Somali women and their children face, the fact that majority of corruption is committed by Somalis (both official and non-officials), that an honest civil servant is prone to trauma and burn-out due to the difficulties of their everyday life and that Somalis are more traditionalists than they are religious.
I also learned that just because you have ethnic and religious commonalities does not mean you have anything in common. Going back to Somalia and serving people helped me mature and made me reflect a lot. Helping others is great but it is incredibly important to also teach people to help themselves. I have learned that no one can bring positive change to a community unless that community wants to change. I am an individual that can only do so much and if that’s going to make people upset, so be it.
What made you pursue your current career?
I am passionate about self-development. I have always been great at making strategies and plans for small business owners. I enjoy helping others transform themselves and their careers. This is something I have been doing since I returned to the US and I plan on continuing.
I felt that there are many people in need of help, not financially but in terms of personal self-development. As someone who was a self-aware child, I realized that in today’s environment people aren’t capable of checking in with themselves and their feelings, needs and wants. Coaching others to develop what they need in their lives and their careers has been an incredible opportunity and blessing for me.
What is a typical day like for you?
My workday involves meeting clients with various needs. This means that I will either offer self-help, career advice or business growth strategies depending on what my client will require that day. My job requires me to read and write most of my day, which I absolutely enjoy. I spend a lot of time looking over contracts, putting results together and developing short and long-term plans for my clients. Besides that, I also do a reading and writing challenge which I do for my own personal growth. I also enjoy doing community volunteer work.
What has been the biggest obstacle in your professional life so far and how did you manage to overcome it?
Coming to terms with what I studied and choosing my career wisely. I went to graduate school wanting to study fine arts. I was blessed to have had great teachers and academic advisers that advised me against studying arts, but instead encouraged me to go for a profession that would help me get a secure job. Studying public administration led me to discover the strengths and weaknesses that I did not know I even had. This led me to my biggest life journey which I am very grateful for.
As for choosing my career wisely, I knew that I always had to have a strategy in place. This meant that I had to set specific goals and work hard towards my expected outcomes.
Which Somali woman inspires you and why?
There are many women that inspire me, but the first one has to be my mother. My mother married young and dreamed of becoming a pediatrician but she had to give up on her dream in order to raise her children. She is brilliant at both math and science, subjects that I was never particularly good at. The sacrifice she made had paid off because all of her children are educated and hold degrees. If it wasn’t for her help and endless support, I would not have been where I’m today and for that I’m more grateful than I can ever express.
The second woman is Edna Adan. To this day, her hospital is the only place where women all over Somalia can travel to have fistula repair surgery. I admire her due to her work ethic. She is someone who is not afraid to do the leg work which is something “the educated” tend to avoid.
Thirdly, Dr Hawa Abdi and her daughters. They are the kind of heroines that will continue to inspire many girls and women for generations to come. They provide social services for over 90,000 without any governmental help. The fact that three women run a program of such a scale is remarkable.
Lastly, Hawa Adan who is the founder of the Galkayo Education Centre for Peace and Development. She sacrificed her energy, time and resources to house and educate young women to become career women, women who will contribute to the community’s growth. She endured many challenges on her journey to helping women become educated but in the end, she succeeded and supported many young women that are now career/political activists.
What advice would you give to a person pursuing your chosen career?
Follow your heart! Don’t listen to anyone. But firstly, ensure that you truly know yourself and what you are capable of. Knowing yourself will help you achieve much more satisfying results as compared to just following someone else’ plans.
Also, be open to learning and never shy away to rise to any occasion to help and to make a difference. Also, never make money the main priority in anything you do. Money comes and goes but it’s the knowledge, skills and experience you will gain that matter more than money.
Finally, go forward, never explain what your values are. Be content and stand out. Your motto is to be the best of all.
How would you like people to remember you?
Someone that helped others not for personal gain but for the sake of doing what is right, in order to make a difference. Also, someone who influenced people as a role model, someone who people wanted to emulate.
You can find Anisa Hajimumin on Twitter: @Anisa_Hajimumin