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Determined Somali girl, 14, shines shoes to take care of her family in Mogadishu IDP camp

Monday October 3, 2022

Maryan, 14, hard at work earning a few dollars shining shoes to support her family/Naimo Said/Ergo 

(ERGO) – Maryan Abdisamad Muse, 14, has been supporting her family of nine people living in an IDP camp in the Somali capital Mogadishu’s Kahda district on the small amount she earns shining shoes.

This determined teenager walks nine kilometres every day from Kahda to Hodan district to make a living.

“I work in Dabka and I walk there. I leave my house at seven in the morning and reach there around 10 am. Sometimes my slippers get cut on the long walk. I am a girl, and the city can be bad, so sometimes I think I could take a tuk-tuk taxi, but I can’t afford it,” said Maryan.

With no skills or education, Maryam believes this is the best job for her given the alternatives. Working as a house help can be risky for a vulnerable young girl and she does not think she has the strength to wash heaps of dirty clothes.

Maryan’s family had been living in Yemen and returned to Somalia after their father died and the conflict deepened in 2015. They currently live in small makeshift house in the sprawling IDP camp. Their house is plastic, iron sheets and some tree branches although it does not provide them enough shelter from the rain.

Maryan’s mother stopped working five months ago when she was hospitalised with her youngest son aged six. The wound from the C-section surgery when she gave birth to him burst and became infected and has worsened over some time. The boy also has a deformed leg and cannot walk.

The treatment she is getting now is free in Banadir hospital although Maryan is using part of her income to buy them food in the hospital. Another portion of her income goes to her siblings and grandmother.

Fadumo Abdikadir Mohamed, her grandmother, told Radio Ergo they depend solely on young Maryan for their income. They pay 150,000 shillings ($6) for rent although they get free water and electricity.

“This girl is the one who supports us. She gets $2-3 and when she works we are able to enjoy some food. We don’t have any other source of income. The children are hungry, there is barely enough food for them, and Maryan now supports her mother as well,” she said.

However, Maryan is very worried that she cannot raise the $2,000 her mother needs for further treatment in a specialist hospital.

“No one can live without their mother. My mother’s sickness is what worries me most, but I can’t help her. It would be good to get someone to help our mother, we hope for better times,” said Maryan.

Her two brothers and three sisters aged between five and 12 dropped out of school since they could not afford the fees.

“I have never had education and I don’t even know how to write in Somali. I missed out on education, but I wanted to help my siblings to get an education.

I wanted them to learn but we were faced with a tough choice. I am a girl and a shoe-shiner – I couldn’t afford the fees,” Maryan said. 


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