From Yemen to a Fresh Start in Burao, Somaliland

Fathuma (40) and Naim (17) are two co-owners of a local general shop within Burao, Somaliland. Born generations apart, the pair are blood relatives brought together through difficult circumstances that found both of them crossing the Gulf of Aden into Yemen years ago.

In the early 2010s, Fathuma, worked as a door-to-door saleswoman selling clothes in order to make a living. Having been separated, Fathuma needed to find her own path in order to provide for herself. Over the years, she struggled to make ends meet and, in 2012, decided to make the same decisions that several Somalis made before her travel to Yemen for find better work.

For Naim, she was not fortunate to attend school, and instead, found herself working as a house cleaner for households when she was just 13. One day in 2013, her friends came up with an idea to travel to Yemen together in order to cross into Saudi Arabia in hopes of a better wage for domestic work.

Both women made the dangerous voyage across the Gulf of Aden through known illegal smuggling channels a year apart without knowing the other had planned to go.

Naim quickly lost her friends when she could not managed to slip past the well-guarded Saudi border and Fathuma cleaned houses for local Yemeni homes and wages barely higher than what she had at home. Luckily, Naim managed to be reunited with Fathuma and found solace being with family.

Then the war in Yemen broke out in early 2015.

Missiles fell from the sky and shelling would go on non-stop. Any jobs they pair might have had completely fell apart as people began to flee their home from the violence. Rather than waiting for the next shell to land on them the pair chose to leave on a boat with other Somalis back to Somalia in the first few months of the war.

Back in the calmness of Burao, the pair found themselves back at square one for job prospects. However, through a livelihoods project by IOM, the pair managed to open up a general store as partners. Figuring that they will have a steady flow of customers needing basic goods and necessities, the pair hope that their business will cater to their needs as the drought begins to cripple local businesses and livestock.

“I really hope that this business will be enough to meet my needs. I have a one and a half year old son with my husband that I met while in Yemen. When the war began, I really wanted to leave but he did not want to leave. Worrying for my child, I decided to leave without him. I have not heard from him since so it’s up to me to provide for us.”

Naim is only 17 years old.