Meet Fadumo Dayib: Somalia’s First Woman Running for President

A Somali refugee-turned-Harvard grad is now a presidential candidate. Dayib’s father, a truck driver, and mother, a “nomad,” moved from Somalia for a fresh start in Kenya where Dayib was born and raised.  As time went on, though, tensions between the two countries only increased and in 1989, Dayib’s family was deported back to Somalia. After the country’s civil war broke out two years later, the family was forced to leave again, this time to Finland.

In Finland, Dayib served as a nurse practitioner and a translator to help other Somali immigrants accommodate to their new life. She went on to work for the United Nations, where she helped set up clinics and offices in Somalia, Fiji and Liberia. This experience made her realize that pursuing a career in government would help her institute change in Somalia.   

“I am doing it for my daughters, for my mother, and for all the other women to say that we don’t need to negotiate for our existence. We are here.”

Dayib’s accomplishment of graduating from Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government in 2015 is especially inspiring since she did not learn to read or write until the age of 14. With her educational background and time spent at the United Nations, Dayib is now running for president in her home country in the hopes of tackling the instability and challenges Somalia faces, primarily the recent al-Shabaab insurgency.

Her candidacy has since prompted backlash as the mother of four has already received death threats, which Dayib takes as a sign that she’s doing the right thing. In a male-dominated society, her campaign for presidency is unprecedented and according to Dayib, a step toward much-needed change: “ They see a capable leadership in me, a visionary leader, a servant leader. This is not what they have been used to and it scares them because the moment I come into office they know that their existence will be threatened.”

by Meki Shewangizaw