Family rituals strengthen sibling bonds in Somalia

Wednesday, March 13, 2024
Sisters, Sabrina and Fawzia.

Sisters, Sabrina and Fawzia.


Fawzia* was close to her father. When he died suddenly from a bomb explosion in Mogadishu, she was shocked and crushed. 


With her mother also deceased from complications in childbirth, Fawzia,14, and her five siblings, two boys, 10 and 12 years old and three girls, 15, 16 and 21 years old, turned to each other for support and created family rituals to help them deal with their loss of parental care. 


“When my father died, I could not sleep or eat,” says Fawzia, the youngest of the four girls. I knew that I would never see him again. It was hard for me to accept the reality of it. That morning, he had woken us up before dawn to pray. Then he prepared for us a nice breakfast because my eldest sister [Sabrina] was not feeling well. After we ate together, he said he needed to go [to work]. I walked him to the front door, and he told me that he would be back soon. I loved him so much.”  


Fawzia looked up to her eldest sister, Sabrina, for comfort. Despite feeling hurried to take on the parenting role while still in mourning, Sabrina accepted the responsibility of keeping the family together. 


“I shared my feelings with Sabrina, and she sat there patiently and listened to me,” says Fawzia. Her love and respect helped me deal with the sadness. She is very important to me. Sabrina takes care of everyone in the family,” she says.


The night before his death, Sabrina says the family had spent a lot of time together, listening to their father telling funny stories. 


“We like to retell his stories regularly. We talk about his integrity, kindness, and love for storytelling. We are building our bonds on the strong and loving relationship our father nurtured between us.”


Growing up happy


Fawzia and her siblings were born in rural Somalia. And although their parents did not have much money, they had a happy childhood.  


Their parents kept goats, which they sold for income to meet the family's needs. The sisters spent a lot of time together taking care of the goats and having fun. After their mother died, the family sold their goats and moved to Mogadishu, Somalia’s capital city. 


“Another ritual we have is eating dinner together,” says Fawzia. Family dinners “are a time to talk and laugh. We revisit the good memories of our time living in the countryside. We made fun of our lifestyle there and how we played while looking after the goats. The best part is getting to know how everyone is doing.”


Assistance from SOS Children’s Villages


With the loss of parental care came the loss of their livelihood. To protect the children and ensure they do not lack necessities, SOS Children’s Villages Somalia covered the cost of their education which includes school supplies, education fees and a living allowance. Halima*,16, received a scholarship.  


Kulow Noor, Child and Youth Development Officer and a therapist at SOS Children’s Villages, has provided Fawzia and her siblings with mental health support. Noor says that the bond and friendship between the siblings fostered their resilience and gave them the strength to face difficulties and survive.  


“The sense of togetherness as a family and the support they received from their relatives, neighbours and SOS Children’s Villages has contributed to their resilience.”


“What makes me happy is that we are living together as a family,” says Sabrina. “Some relatives wanted to separate us and divide the children between themselves, but I refused. I feel proud when I see my siblings together enjoying life.” 


Ready to explore the world


Fawzia, now in grade seven, is making plans for her future. Math and science are her best subjects at school.  


“I want to become a midwife to assist mothers in the community to deliver babies safely. If my mother had received professional help during childbirth, she would be alive today. I do not want other mothers to suffer like she did.”


Sabrina, however, cannot think of her dreams just yet. She already has a degree but wants to advance her studies to become a lawyer, but her priority right now is taking care of her siblings. In the meantime, she will start a small business to provide for her family. She wants them all to be good citizens with a bright future. 


*Names changed to protect privacy. 

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