New Realities: Somali Women Tell Us About Working During A Global Pandemic

For millions of people across the world, the global pandemic has changed people’s normal daily structures. From working to travelling to socializing, the spread of the COVID-19 virus has drastically altered how we all live. We at The Haybad wanted to find out how Somali women have been coping with these changes.


Samia*, a copywriter and business analyst living in Tanzania, considers this pandemic “both a blessing and a curse”. Since she is able to work from home now, Samia* has had more time to engage and connect with her friends and family, and also spend more time on nurturing her soul with prayers, meditation, yoga and reading books. On the other hand, she states that it has been a “scary and unpredictable time” since she has had to take a pay cut, and also because the Tanzanian government has been having issues with divulging accurate information regarding how the pandemic has affected the country. “It has also been a really tough time because the country that I am in is currently not immigrant-friendly”, she states.

The closure of borders and the restriction of movement between countries means that many people are finding themselves stuck in other locations and away from their homes.

Fatima Cawil who works as a policy and advocacy officer in Belgium considers herself lucky that most of her work can be done from her laptop because she is currently not in her country of residence due to the pandemic. “I actually came to visit my parents who live in the United Kingdom when the lockdown happened, so I’ve been with them and my siblings for nearly two months”.

Leyla Mohamed from Kenya who is a producer at Radio Ergo was in Mogadishu when the Somali government announced that it would suspend international passenger flights in order to counter the spread of the COVID-19 virus. “I travelled to Mogadishu in mid-March and all flights were suspended from the country days after I got here. I was not expecting to stay that long but I was forced to”. Leyla is finding herself having to adapt to her new reality with some considerable difficulty. “I am having a hard time here since the environment is not helping me to work as I used to or if I was to work from my home in Nairobi”.

For those that live in areas where the transmission rates are not high yet, the reality is a bit different.

Xaawo* a researcher based in Hargeisa, states that she has not felt the impact of the global pandemic yet but that its potential effects are something that worries people. “For me, its the rethinking project designs, understanding emerging needs of people and finding solutions to getting services to communities especially displaced communities”. Since countries like Somalia with a fragile health system are particularly more at risk to an outbreak of the COVID-19 virus, people on the ground are understandably stressed. “I guess we are really just stuck trying to figure it all out but the worst part is we do not have the privilege of time”. 

*Not their real names.

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