Yemeni woman refugee runs thriving grocery shop in Hargeisa
She poignantly reflects back on her life in Sanaa, Yemen, a few years ago. There was peace and she lived happily with her family. Life was without fear of what would happen the next day. She cooked diverse foods for her eight children and husband, a construction worker.
She adjusts her dark orange hijab, with her mind in deep thought, as she talks of how her life has changed. In mid last year, her husband felt Sanaa was getting too dangerous and the family had to seek safety, out of the country. He remained behind, as his family took a treacherous journey by speedboat through the Red Sea, to Hargeisa, Somaliland, in June, last year. This is a journey across the sea of close to 1,200 kilometres that took more than 30 hours. Then by road to Hargeisa that took about three hours.
“We travelled by boat with my eight children for one and half days after paying the owner some fee,” says Anab Mohamoud Yusuf, 45. She was despondent when she arrived in the Somaliland capital, Hargeisa. Her spirit was more or less buried, deep in an abyss. But not now.
For four months Anab struggled to feed her children, aged between seven and 25. “The Yemeni community in Hargeisa supported me for about four months,” she says. There are close to 3000 Yemeni refugees in Hargeisa, who in the last two years have sought protection from the war in their country.
In November 2015, Anab was among beneficiaries of a two-day training on business skills offered by AAH-I and funded by UNHCR. The training entailed skills on identifying a strategic place for business premises, bookkeeping and restocking. Out of 91 beneficiaries of financial support; Micro Enterprise Fund (MEF), 28 are women drawn from countries such as Yemen, Syria and Ethiopia.
Anab is proving that with some support, refugees, especially women, can be able to sustainably fend for their families. There is tendency to believe that refugees can only live through rations offered by agencies. But this is not always the case.
She received $3400 under the MEF, provided by UNHCR, a few days after the training, and set up a shop at Sheikh Nour area, about five kilometres from the city centre. She has stocked a number of household items. Currently, her stock value is about $4000 and she makes about $100 weekly. However, she faces competition from other businesspeople, who have premises near her shop. “I plan to start making pastries to improve on my earnings and as a means to overcome competition,” says Anab, whose husband Abdalla Yahya Ali, 52, still lives in Sanaa. “The income from the shop has enabled me feed and clothe my children.”
The couple’s first born, Sherehan Yahya, 25, graduated with a degree in English three years ago, from Sanaa University. “War is devastating. Education can sometimes be of limited value with war. I worked for a ticketing firm for one year in Sanaa. Now I am jobless. I have tried to secure a teaching job as a translator in Hargeisa at colleges and universities, but it is difficult since I cannot speak Somali,” Sherehan explains her predicament.
AAH-I’s Self-Reliance/Livelihoods Manager Barlet Jaji says in 2015, they received 292 business plans but approved 91, due to limited funding.