Luul: Champion of women and youth empowerment in Somalia

By Asad Cabdullahi Mataan

Luul Issack Adan brightens up when speaking about her role as a champion for peace and women’s empowerment in Somalia’s Interim South West State. The 33-year-old activist is the role model of many, because of her outstanding record of support to communities in need.

A mother of eight children, Luul decided to take up community work to help her fellow citizens immediately after she got married. Her inspirational story began in 2007 when she created a local non-governmental organization called Bakool Women Empowerment Centre.

In May 2008, Luul managed to get funding from the U.S. based Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA) to help establish various community projects. Using the funding she received from ADRA, Luul joined hands with a group of women and decided to venture into farming to help transform their lives by teaching them modern methods of farming. They constructed a well and bought land for farming various types of crops such as tomatoes, onions, pumpkins, lettuce, spinach and carrots.

According to Luul, the model farm succeeded in greatly improving the lives of women in the region. The farm produce was mainly for domestic consumption and surpluses was sold to earn the group extra income.

Due to the positive impact the farming project had on communities, ADRA provided extra funds for Luul’s organization to embark on another project. This time Luul’s group chose to set a bakery, helping rural women construct traditional ovens to bake bread, biscuits and cupcakes. To ensure the pastries could be readily sold, Luul rented shops as outlets for sale of the women’s products.

“We also got help for arts and crafts. We were given dyes to make mats. This in turn generated more income for the women. A total of 75 women have benefited from the initiatives in Huddur and they are continuing to use their entrepreneurial skills up till today,” said Luul.

Having accomplished her dream of uplifting the lives of local women in Hudur, Bakool region, Luul relocated to Baidoa; the capital of the Interim South West State, where she established another local NGO called South West Better Life Organization (SBLO) in April 2016.

The lack of sustained government-led anti-extremism strategies in Baidoa, prompted Luul to come up with projects targeting youths to prevent them from falling prey to the misguided ideologies propagated by violent extremist organizations.

To ensure her idea and objectives were well understood by the locals and the regional administration, Luul conducted awareness campaigns and sought support from the various interest groups in Baidoa. One of the meetings she organized was attended by South West Administration President, ministers, businessmen, civil society members and religious leaders.

“The community overwhelmingly supported us. A resident, for example, donated his building to act as a temporary structure to commence operations. The business community donated other equipment to facilitate immediate take off, including computers, sewing machines and welding machines among others. People with various artisanal skills volunteered to start training the youths.  Generally these were the gestures of people longing to see enduring solutions to the unending insecurity,” said Luul.

The main goal of SBLO is to equip youth, especially young girls, with the knowledge and skills to help them become self-starting entrepreneurs.

Some of the vocational skills taught at the centre include carpentry, computers, electronics, tailoring, cosmetology and hairdressing, traditional art and design and welding.

Barely eight months old, the centre has so far already produced more than 650 graduates who are currently contributing, in different ways, to the development of the country.

Luul continues to play her role in promoting peace and cohesion in the community by organizing activities aimed at creating awareness of the importance of stability.

“SBLO is also involved in a peace awareness initiative. We organize peace shows during which citizens converge from all over Baidoa town to present their cultural plays in support of peace,” she said.

These activities have helped deter youths from violent extremism, by ensuring their minds are occupied.

Luul is currently planning to expand her organization to Lower Shabelle and Bakool to replicate the success registered in Baidoa so as to help more youths realise their dreams.

Source: UNSOM