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“His threats will never stop me from trying to be an independent woman who wants to live a better life with my children,” says Safia.  

Safia Dahir Ahmed is 32 years old. She has eight children- six boys and two girls. Her oldest son is 14 years old and the youngest is only three. Safia was born and grew up with her family in a small village nearby Baidoa. In 2003 she married a businessman who was supplying the village market with different commodities. Their family rented and lived in a three-room house with two washrooms. Their children attended Quranic Madarasa. Safia’s family was perceived as a middle class by their community members. They would lend a helping hand to their other family members who faced difficulties. "We lived a happy life. My husband was the breadwinner and I took care of the household," recalls Safia. She lived comfortably with her husband and children until Al-Shabaab captured their village.  

As part of their control, Al-Shabaab has started indoctrinating and recruiting more members from Safia’s village. Soon Safia’s husband was recruited and eventually became a soldier working for Mukhtar Robow. One night her husband came to Safia and said that he has made a decision to devote himself to  Al-Shabaab and their cause. “I was shocked to realize that I would have to carry the full responsibility to sustain and take care of our family, our children…” Safia continued her story. 

The following morning, her husband handed over the family shop to her after a brief “training”. He vanished into the bush following Al-Shabaab on that day.  

“I took over the shop from him for the first time. I struggled to run the business and the household duties simultaneously. It was difficult to be the breadwinner and take care of our children and the house at the same time,” shared Safia. Eventually, through perseverance and through learning from mistakes, Safia was able to manage the business and handle the daily household responsibilities.  

The communication with her husband was limited. “I refused to join him and move with him to a village that was under Al-Shabaab’s control. Because of this I was reported to Al-Shabaab’s court several times.” This was only the beginning of a long “battle” between Safia and her husband, which finally ended in divorce. However, Safia started receiving death threats from her husband. “I could not ignore the threat, so one morning I took my two youngest children and moved to Baidoa through Diinsoor.”

When Al-Shabaab was ousted from their village, Safia’s husband was posted at Bukriyey from where he was able to sneak into Baidoa. Safia recalls a recent phone-call from her ex-husband, “In a very low voice he told me, ‘I was told that you go to a center in Baidoa to receive incentives from the infidels every day.’” 

Despite the continuous intimidation and everyday challenges, Safia remains determined to find a way to continue move forward and take care of her children. “His threats will never stop me from trying to be an independent woman who wants to live a better life with her children” Safia murmured gently as she finished telling her story.