By Fredrick Ngugi,
Safiyo Jama Gayre, a 60-year-old Somali grandmother, is set to graduate with a degree in law from Puntland State University in Somalia by the end of the year.
Safiyo, who is the oldest in her class, says she decided to go back to school to prove that age is not a barrier for a person to graduate and start a career in law.
She hopes to use her legal expertise to participate in building the justice sector in the war-torn Somalia, according to United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).
“I know I am a mother and a grandmother, but I am also a person who loves school, and I would study the rest of my life if the opportunity came along, because I want my life to be more meaningful,” Safiyo told UNDP.
Sustainable Delivery of Justice
Safiyo joined the university in 2012 through a scholarship programme by the UNDP, which assists tens of students in Somalia to join Puntland State University to study law.
The scholarship is funded through the UNDP Joint Rule of Law Programme, whose main objective is to support long term legal education to increase the number of qualified lawyers, prosecutors, judges, and other officials of the judiciary and law enforcement in the country.
This is expected to nurture sustainable and effective change in the dispensation of justice in Somalia.
Prior to this scholarship, there were only 15 trained lawyers in Puntland’s judicial system. But the number has since grown, with most of the law graduates supported through this programme finding employment in the Ministry of Justice.
Hope for the Hopeless
For decades, women in Somalia have tolerated a biased effect of hardships occasioned by retrogressive cultural practices and beliefs as well as the decades-long civil conflict.
Given Somalia is predominantly an Islamic society a lot of women are excluded from formal decision making and asset ownership. Others have to operate through patriarchal filters, which make them feel inferior.
Before joining the university, Safiyo says she didn’t belief she could achieve her dream of becoming a lawyer. She also had to defy numerous social and cultural barriers to go through school.
“However, after the results of the entrance exam were released, I scored the second highest points,” she told UNDP.
She has already submitted her final thesis and now plans to inspire other Somali women by educating them on the benefits of going to school.