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Hiiraan Online ‘Person of the Year’ 2015: The Somali Youth

Hiiraan Online
Saturday, January 09, 2016

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Hiran Online (HOL) annually confers ‘Person of the Year’ to an exemplary individual or entity with remarkable achievements, or someone who strives to advance the common good. This year, HOL Editorial has selected ‘Somali Youth’ both local and in the diaspora, as the group most deserving of this recognition.  The prolonged Somali civil war, and its impact on state failure discourages, limits, and impedes the development of Somalia’s future. Current national censuses demonstrate that approximately 75% of the population in Somalia is under the age of 30. 

Recent United Nations Human Development studies evidence that although the majority of Somali youth believe they have the right to be educated and a right to decent work, most feel disempowered by multiple structural barriers built into the family, institutions, local government, and society at large (UNDP, 2012). The lack of viable education and employment opportunities, coupled with the absence of peace and security in the region, including inherent cultural prejudices for some, continue to evoke high-levels of frustration and discontentment among Somali youth.

As a result of these conditions, many Somalis left their homes and were internally displaced, remain in refugee camps in neighboring countries, or continue to attempt to cross the vast Indian Ocean often resorting to unsafe methods of travel seeking a better life overseas. Unfortunately, many perish in the process, though some may reach their destination, and are grateful for the second chance to rebuild their lives.

However, extremist elements operating in Somalia often exploit poverty conditions, unemployment, and social exclusion in their recruitment of Somali youth—minimizing their value beyond a means to achieve a short term political agenda. The Somali Government along with the international community must work harder to protect Somali youth by providing alternative opportunities for human development and prosperity, effectively winning the hearts and minds of the youth.

Many Somalis who remain in the country continue to manage the hand that life dealt them and are making the best out of the situation. Increasingly, Somali youth are engaged in all levels of the Somali education system, and continue to proudly serve their nation in the many sectors of Somali economy.  However, despite their inherent value to Somali society, contemporary Somali youth continue to face many challenges.

Although Somali society may envision a positive role for the youth in its future, it is nevertheless reluctant to entrust them with any decision-making authority—which is traditionally delegated and monopolized by clan elders and other private interests. The Somali society must remedy this tradition and encourage youth to vocalize their concerns and provide input as critical stakeholders of Somali society, playing a key role in reshaping the Somalia they will soon inherit. The value of Somali youth, both in Somalia and in the Diaspora, is immense and must be fully recognized to reshape post-conflict Somalia. It is crucial for the Somali Government to develop a national youth policy clearly detailing the civic, political, and economic role the youth should play in the new Somalia. Societal actors, including private companies, investors and NGO’s, should also be encouraged to take on their role to improve and advance education, training, and other professional development opportunities geared toward the youth to better prepare them to rebuild the Somali state. 

Undoubtedly, Somali youth are the future of the nation. It is they who must continue to build on the current nation-building achievements and advance the interest of their fellow citizens both at home and abroad. HOL is inspired by the growing youth involvement in nation-building projects in Somalia, as well as youth engagement and interaction with established organizations spearheading the internal development process. As Somalia inches towards the peak of Vision 2016, it is undeniable that it will heavily impact the largest segment of the population, the youth. It is they who will endure and potentially improve the condition of governance and leadership they will inherit in September 2016.

It is the duty and obligation of the Somali Government and the international community to win the hearts and minds of Somali youth to permanently defeat violent extremism and terrorism internally and abroad. Moreover, Somali youth must continue to lobby for positive change, and continue to work with their counterparts to advance the nation-building process. Therefore, it is incumbent upon the youth to unite and campaign for their role in the future Somali state and society.

We congratulate the Somali Youth for their current successes and wish them luck in their struggle for equality and social inclusion within Somali society. It is therefore with great honor and pride that HOL awards this year’s ‘Person of the Year’ award to the Somali Youth. 

The selection process of HOL person of the year is undertaken by HOL writers, contributors, and editorial board and it is based on certain criteria, including being a Somali citizen and having contributed positively to the well-being of the Somali people.

Below are the former HOL Persons of the year

Click here