Hosh Jama Farah says there is nothing particularly special or different about him. He insists he is just a young Somali trying to better himself, provide for his family and help his country on its path to peace and prosperity.
But his modesty belies the dedication and effort he has put in towards getting to where he now finds himself.
From humble origins, Mr. Farah has made something of his life through education. He now runs his own thriving small business in Garowe, the capital of Somalia's Federal Member State of Puntland.
While the young entrepreneur makes no claim to be an example to others, he does hope that elements of his life journey can inspire other Somali youth.
Mr. Farah – also known as 'Hosh Docol' – was born in 1991, the year in which his country descended into a long-running civil war. He was born in a small village, Labilammaane, in the Jariban district of the Mudug region in central Somalia. His family were herders, and he was one of 13 siblings.
Growing up amidst the horrors and vicissitudes of war, he was determined to make something of his life, and education provided a route.
In 1997, along with an older brother, he moved to Jariban town, where they stayed with relatives so as to start their schooling there. The brothers stayed for nine years, and Mr. Farah finished his primary schooling there. In 2006, Mr. Farah shifted to the city of Galkayo, also in the Mudug region, and completed his secondary education at the Omar Samatar Secondary School. He applied himself to his studies and graduated with honours in 2012.
Subsequently, he enrolled in a bachelor's degree course in economic development and management at the Bosaso campus of Mogadishu University, and graduated in 2016.
In an effort to widen his skillset while undertaking his undergraduate studies, Mr. Farah sacrificed his social life and spare time. He worked part-time, including for the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP), with whom he worked on a web-based registration programme. He also undertook several online courses, in areas ranging from graphic design to project management.
"My journey in the pursuit of knowledge started with sacrifice and dedication – I started to educate myself, taking various online courses to enhance my knowledge – and between the years 2015 and 2017, I did several short, online courses that helped shape my professional career," he says.
His educational focus spread way beyond his chosen area of formal study. For example, in 2017, he took a one-year e-course on video editing and scriptwriting from Alison, an online education platform.
"By the time I finished this course, I had realized that I had the foundations for a career in filmmaking, and now one of my major skills areas is in film production and editing," the 31-year-old says.
The educational exploration, along with his detection of an opportunity in Somalia's nascent digital media sector, led to him change his career focus.
He is now a digital media production specialist based in Garowe. He runs his own digital production company, Dookh Press, which he began in 2017, building it from the ground up, and employs seven people.
"When I was establishing my company, I did not seek financial support from family nor loans from local banks. I had a dream to do it on my own, to utilize my skills in digital production and I steadily built up my client base, and, a few years later, my company became recognized in the city as one of the best in its field," Mr. Farah says.
"Since I founded Dookh Press five years ago, I have worked with the UN, international and local non-governmental organizations and Puntland government institutions," he continues. "For example, there were few experienced design and digital production companies in my town, so the Ministry of Education chose my company to design 118 textbooks for Puntland's primary schools from first to fourth grade. I designed more than 100 book covers."
Growing up amidst the horrors and vicissitudes of war, he was determined to make something of his life, and education provided a route
Looking back on his life journey so far, he ruminates on the path he took to achieve his independence and self-sufficiency. It was no easy journey compared to many of his peers.
Among the obstacles he faced, he recounts the difficult transition from a small, poor village to a major town, with limited familial networks and minimal financial support.
While some of his friends went abroad in the pursuit of better lives and careers, he was committed to following his path within Somalia.
"I have always believed in my country and have always had confidence that there are a lot of opportunities in my country, be it with education or work. Not everyone agreed with this view of mine – quite a significant number of young people like me, who went abroad for a better life and better education, came to finally appreciate my decision after some of them failed to realize their dreams overseas," he says.
While his path was difficult at times, he was determined to continue.
"I committed a significant portion of my time to becoming independent. I was determined to better myself through education and to have a brighter future," Mr. Farah says. "In my experience, there is no substitute for hard work if you want to achieve your goals. I made the decision to concentrate on expanding my skillset to make my dream a reality."
Like many entrepreneurs who have enjoyed success, Mr. Farah is keen to give back to his community and, aptly, education has been a conduit for his giving.
Amid his intense focus on advancing through education and self-development, he found work as a part-time high school biology teacher and evening tutor while studying in Bosaso. He then went on to combine teaching with advocacy in his local community, imparting knowledge and raising awareness on a range of issues via digital platforms.
"In 2015, I created a social media campaign called #Isbaro which, in English, roughly means 'know yourself,' with the intention of teaching youth about Somali history, ethnicity, literature, poetry, environment, traditional astronomy, culture, literature and more – in fact, it was a fascinating experience for me to research these topics and share this knowledge with my peers. I taught these subjects for four years and in the process, I also learnt a lot," Mr. Farah says.
His experience of being a father of four young children, aged between one and nine, coupled with his own experiences of growing up with limited resources, means that the needs and prospects of Somali youth are never far from on his mind.
"Unemployment is a big challenge that Somali youth face and to overcome this burden I always tell young people to trust their country, to study hard and, when they can, to create jobs. There will always be challenges, but these can be overcome with patience and a lot of self-sacrifice," Mr. Farah says.
Importance of education
Somalia's ninth National Development Plan, covering the 2020-24 period, lists education as a key sector that is vital for the country's prosperity and progress, and its authorities aim to "phase in free and compulsory access to primary education a grade/year at a time until is it universally achieved by 2030."
The United Nations in Somalia has been supporting the Federal Government in the education sector for a number of years. This includes the completion of an Education Sector Strategic Plan, the launch of a new education curriculum for primary schools across the country, the conduct of national examinations across Somalia, and the successful completion of the Joint Review of the Education Sector in Mogadishu.
In addition, the UN in Somalia strongly advocates for increased funding of the education sector in Somalia to ensure education is accessible to all communities.
The United Nations is also heavily engaged in supporting the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The fourth SDG is centred on education, with the premise being that when people are able to get quality education they can break from the cycle of poverty, thus reducing inequalities, enabling upward socioeconomic mobility and helping to reach gender equality.
Part of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, the SDGs are a universal call to action to end poverty, protect the planet and improve the lives and prospects of everyone everywhere, and were adopted by all UN Member States in 2015 as part of the 2030 Agenda, which sets out a 15-year plan to achieve the SDGs.
Distributed by APO Group on behalf of United Nations Assistance Mission in Somalia (UNSOM).