Somali mother expands business to secure a better life for her children

Tuesday, July 18, 2023

Qadan, 32, learned to succeed as an entrepreneur. 


The budding business owner in Hargeisa, Somaliland, went from selling one kilogram to five kilograms of rice or spaghetti per day in her restaurant.  


Her daily income has doubled, and the lives of her six children have changed. Her menu consists of Somali pancakes, tea, and beans stew. 


With her clientele growing, Qadan feels ready to add mutton, goat, and camel to the menu. 


Qadan works only with one hand. The mother of six was born with the lower part of her left hand missing, but she does not allow the disability to slow her down.  


You will find Qadan in her element, peeling potatoes, chopping onions, vegetables, and garlic, and cooking for her customers. She only needs help to lift heavy items.  


“I am happy with our lives right now. One thing that inspires me the most is that I have nutritious food to give my children.”


“I saw my neighbours give their children nutritious food, and I felt bad because I could not afford it. But now I can provide for my children. I can buy whatever they need.” The ages of her children are one, five, eight, nine, 11 and 12. 


The beginning 


Qadan turned her passion for cooking into a business four years ago when her husband and family’s breadwinner stopped working after a head injury in a car accident. The neighbours provided the family with food for a while, but it wasn’t enough, and the children were suffering.  


Qadan set up her restaurant, made simply of wood and iron sheets, outside her house to easily juggle between work, home chores and childcare responsibilities.  


The beginning was tough, and sales could have been better. Qadan could not send her children to school, and the family ate the customers’ leftovers. 


From surviving to thriving 


Growth for Qadan came after a team from the SOS Children’s Villages Family Strengthening Program trained her in business management, hygiene, parenting, and childcare. 


She then joined the Village Savings and Loan Association and accessed a small loan of 300 US Dollars. She used the money to expand her business.


The SOS Family Strengthening Programs help families facing hardship to build their livelihoods to profitable levels, moving them from surviving to thriving. With regular income, these families can protect and care for their children and set them up for success. 


“Before SOS [Children’s Villages], my customers sat on a mat on the floor or on jerricans,” says Qadan. 


“I did not have chairs. My service was poor, and those clients I served once did not return. With the revolving loan, I was able to buy plastic tables, chairs, and a fridge to cool the water and juices. My restaurant is now making a real good profit. I feed my children on special dishes like meat, eggs, and fish for their nutrition and pay their school fees. I am doing well now.”


Public primary education is free in Somaliland, but low-income families cannot afford school supplies, uniforms, transportation and fees for teachers’ salaries. 


Data from UNICEF shows that one in every two children in Somaliland does not have an opportunity to go to school. Poverty, drought, food insecurity, and inequality are the main obstacles.  


“Today we went to school to learn math, science and English,” says 12-year-old Suda, Qadan’s eldest child.  


“I tried to focus as much as I could to understand. I like English more than any other subject because the teacher is very good. I would like to be a teacher one day to help other children become smart.” 


Suda* is in grade three. His peers are in grades seven and eight. 


It does not take an expert to see the effect of years of poor nutrition on Qadan’s children. Families can free themselves from debilitating challenges with support and provide their children with the foundation they need to grow and thrive. 

New house 


To improve their accommodation, the SOS Family Strengthening Program provided Qadan’s family with a house with two large rooms and a veranda. 


They previously lived in a small one-roomed hut that flooded when it rained and could not keep them warm during the cold season. The space was too small for the entire family.  


“Since I got this space [new house], I can invite my friends for tea, and we can have a good time and long conversations,” says Qadan looking pleased. “Even relatives visit, and they can spend the night. It is a good feeling. I could not receive visitors before because I had no space. The children use one room, and I entertain the visitors on the veranda.” 


“I really like SOS [Children’s Villages] because they built for us a house that has a cemented floor,” says nine-year-old Emma. “Our Somali hut was not good. It kept falling apart and my mother had to keep fixing it."


Qadan says the relationship with her children has improved without the daily stress of money. She hopes her determination will teach her children they can do whatever they set their minds to, no matter the circumstances.  


“I knew nothing about childcare and good parenting before. I just gave birth and let nature take its course. But now I know how to talk to the children. It is important to be friends with the children, especially the girls.  


“Since we now have good communication, they tell me everything they see at school or in the streets. They have become open and chatty. And I am happy to explain to them whatever they ask. I really want to work hard so they can achieve their dreams.” 


*Names changed to protect privacy.  

Canadians wishing to help vulnerable children are encouraged to sponsor a child, sponsor an SOS Village or make a one-time donation. Your support will change the lives of orphaned, abandoned and other vulnerable children. Please help today.