Warda Ilyas Ahmed, 25, spent two years searching for jobs in Mogadishu based on her hard-earned university degree in agriculture.
But when she kept on getting rejections, she turned to entrepreneurship and has set up a growing laundry service business that currently employs 13 other young people.
“I was unemployed yesterday, and today I am employing people. It has changed my life and that of my family. I earn an income, and I provide a living for my family. I even support my relatives in rural areas,” Warda said.
Even though her business venture has been successful, she still faces discouraging comments from people in the community about her work:
“They say, you studied and now you are ending up washing clothes! You studied why don’t you go back to studies? I meet challenges including from some close people. Laundry services is considered a despicable job.”
After graduating from Somalia university in 2018, she came to the hard understanding that certificates get you nowhere – it is all about who you know.
“The selection process is based on nepotism. No one will just give you a job. You need to find your MP or minister to get a job. You can’t just walk into a place and find employment,” she said.
Offering jobs on merit
Warda’s friends loaned her funds to start her business, which opened in 2020 and now includes three laundry centres.
As an employer, she wants to change the culture of nepotism that hinders many young people seeking jobs in Mogadishu.
“I select people based on their skills and how much they need the job. If I see someone needs the job and has the skills, I employ them. We make the recruitment process tough because I know how it was for me,” she explained.
She now spends her time overseeing her three laundry centres, which requires patience.
“Sometimes people collect their clean clothes and come back claiming some of their clothes are missing. There are times when someone brings in burnt or worn out clothes and later blames us for the damage,” she said.
With centres in Hodan, Hamar-weyne, and Bondere districts employing nine men and four women, she aims to expand across Banadir region.
Safiya Ibrahim, 20, works in Warda’s Hodan centre doing 12-hour shifts. She earns enough money to take care of her five siblings and mother.
“It’s my first job, I have learned a lot and I benefited a lot, because I have my younger siblings who are still in school. Now my income provides a living, school fees and I get to save some money. Our life has improved,” said Safiya, who is the only breadwinner in her family.
She used to be dependent on her relatives, which was neither good for them nor for her.
“I used to stay at home but now I am a working person and I am happy, thank God. I also thank my sister who gave me this job and welcomed me, it is hard to get someone to just employ you,” she said.
“I receive the incoming clothes, write name labels on them, and weigh them. I also return the laundered clothes back to the owners,” she said.
She finished her secondary school studies in 2019 and could not afford to proceed to university. However, she is now saving part of her salary hoping to enter university and continue her education.
Source: Radio Ergo