If you live in Somalia, it’s highly likely you’ll be in the grip of poverty as it’s among the world’s poorest countries and also one of its most troubled.

Politically unstable since civil war began in 1991, the lack of an effective central government has been one of the causes of worsening infrastructure, declining health and social services, human rights violations and one of the worst socioeconomic outlooks in the world.

Somalia is made up of several different geographical areas with different ruling authorities:

  • Somaliland – has been a self-declared independent state since 1991 but has never been internationally recognised as a country in its own right. Despite this, of the three parts of Somalia it is by far the most stable.
  • Puntland is a semi-autonomous federal state of Somalia and was formed in 1998.
  • South Central Somalia is largely divided along clan lines and since mid 2012, is home to the new Mogadishu-based Somali Federal Government which has been battling Al-Shabaab fighters.

Tearfund is working in Somaliland where our Self-Help Group (SHG) approach is freeing women from the clutches of poverty.

Photo: Grace Kamuyu/Tearfund

I hope that more and more women can be trained in vocational skills that would enable them to earn a living

Self Help Group member Marwad Jama, pictured above

As a teenager, Marwad Jama, 22, had dreams of becoming a doctor but that didn’t happen due to being unable to pay school fees.

She is now married and has two children but hasn’t given up on her dream: ‘I still want to get more educated,’ said Marwad.

Marwad has joined a SHG run by Tearfund partner World Concern where she saves a small amount of money each week. In time, she’ll be able to take out small loans to start a business and improve her standard of living.

‘I would like to build a better house for my family, the one I have now is not stable especially when it rains,’ she says.

‘I want to ensure that my children will go to university because I want them to have a better life than me.’

Marwad’s dream is to see more girls in her community educated. ‘Illiteracy especially among women is a big threat to development. I hope that more and more women can be trained in vocational skills that would enable them to earn a living,’ she says.

Chris McDonald, Tearfund’s Country Representative for Somalia, said, ‘SHGs give poor women the chance to do more together than they could on their own. They have the opportunity to learn basic numeracy and literacy and support one another in times of hardship, to have income and a way to feed their families even during droughts.’

Photo: Cally Spittle/Tearfund
Self-Help Groups in Somaliland are helping women break out of poverty.


Nearly 4 million Somalis out of a population of 9.1 million are classed by the UN as ‘in need’ due to either being driven from their homes by insecurity or facing severe hunger.

Severely lacking in infrastructure, Somalia is heavily dependent on livestock farming which accounts for 40 per cent of GDP and more than 50 per cent of export earnings. But it is affected by extremes of weather. Rain levels from March to June 2014, were half of what is experienced normally and there are fears Somalia will face a major food crisis in the second half of 2014.

However, in light of conflict, shocks, and poor infrastructure, Somalia has maintained a fairly healthy informal economy, largely based on livestock, remittances, money transfer companies, and telecommunications.

Tearfund has been working in Somalia for 18 years, responding to emergencies like the tsunami in 2005 and the drought in 2011 as well as empowering communities through SHGs and helping people improve their resilience to drought and other disasters.

Currently working through two partners – World Concern and Gargaar - and focussing on Somaliland, Tearfund has been able to achieve great strides in ensuring that women particularly, are given an opportunity to be change makers in their communities.

World Concern helps pastoralist communities in eastern Somaliland increase their resilience to drought and other natural hazards connected to climate change.

They are enabling communities be better able to recover from drought, adapt to climate change, and lessen future vulnerability, leading to enhanced food security and diversified livelihoods.

With deforestation a pressing environmental issue, the programme also seeks to reach out to schoolchildren with a climate change message and to mobilise them to plant and care for trees.

Self Help Groups are run by both partners, with Gargaar also providing basic literacy and civic education.