Displaced to Kismayo, Sadija’s story is one of resilience and enterprise, as she enthusiastically reflects on how her reconciliation with women who once had been her enemies has changed her life.
I was born in Kismayo. I was just thirteen years old when civil war reached Mogadishu.
During the years of state collapse between 1991 and 2013, I supported the militias of my clan. To take part you don’t necessarily have to take up a gun. You can take part in many ways, by supporting your clan community when it is fighting against another clan community. You can contribute financially. I personally contributed financially by buying and bringing milk and water to the fighters. I also used to nurse the wounded, help carry them and bring them inside the house. I used to walk among them in the battlefield, while they were shooting at each other, I used to encourage it. I became like plastic. Like plastic, I didn’t feel anything at all.
Why did I encourage it so much? Let me tell you why. There was a man, the son of my uncle. He was twenty years old when the conflict started. He was taken away from my house. We were all there when they took him. They told us, ‘We will kill you, and you, too!’ Then, ‘Dhac!’ [sound of gunfire]. They shot at the stomach of a boy standing there, who was doing nothing. People are killed in front of you. Our wealth was looted. So, we thought, let’s join the fight from our side. That is what made me join the conflict. When people are killed in front of you and you can’t defend them. Then, when it is your turn, you carry on the fighting from your position.
Back then, I used to inflame the conflict, and encourage it. But when I think about it, when I evaluate what has happened, I’ve come to know from experience that there is no benefit from entering into conflict. Peace is better. So now I encourage peace. I love peace and I am working for it.
Because of my involvement in supporting my clan community, I got a position in the administration, and I still work there now. Working in the administration isn’t easy all the time, honestly, but during this time I learnt about the training on peace from SWSO and LPI. I really love learning and taking these courses. Now, whatever happens, I like to stay patient, prevent conflict and rise above it. I love the dignity and the good it gives us. The peace training program is the first of its kind to have women as leaders and put its focus on women. We benefit a lot from it. It is in these seminars where even women from the same clan community got to know each other. This really shows you how little communication and contact there was between us before. We got to know each other in these seminars, to meet other Somali women, who gather together. We didn’t know each other before, although we are related (from within the same clan family). That was the first thing. That women from different clan communities, Somali women, got to meet each other.
The second one is that we are happy with one another. We meet here and when we see each other in other places, we happily greet each other and remember each other’s name. The women who yesterday were in conflict are coming closer to each other with joy; that each of us gathers together in a good and dignified way. We are at this stage now and I would love to spread this happiness to other women, especially in the regions. The third thing is that beside this happiness, when we leave in the afternoon, we transfer this happiness to our children. We can go and buy our flour and rice with peace of mind. Because we have learned these lessons and we do our daily activities without bitterness inside.
This is how peace is like milk. Peace is prosperity, nabadaa naas la nuugo leh [peace has breasts to milk]. You know, people have different views on what peace is. Some have the wrong ideas. We have to call on them and make them understand what is wrong and show them what is good – move away from the bad side. We have moved to a program that helps develop us. Three years ago, we were far from the stage we are at today. We will go even further forward as we move away from using a clenched fist to deal with things, and use dialogue instead. I hope it even better in the future.
Photos representative for safety, supplied by SADO Somalia
This story was originally posted by Peace Direct in a compilation of ‘Life Stories’ that provide first-person narratives of women’s experiences of the Somali civil war. Delving into women’s collected memories, we hear and see the war through the lives of ordinary women. Peace Direct, the Life & Peace Institute (LPI) and the Somali Women Solidarity Organization (SWSO) recently published research into the roles of women in conflict and building peace in Somalia. The findings deepen our understanding of how Somali women play an instrumental role in the construction, prosecution and resolution of violent intra and inter-clan conflict.