Men don’t trust we’re strong enough’: Somali women push into fish industry

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Every morning before sunrise, when most residents in the southern coastal city of Kismayo are asleep, Fardowsa Mohamed Ahmed, 32, goes to the beach to purchase fresh fish, which she will sell in the market.

Like most women in this business, she depends on men to catch the fish. Men dominate the fishing sector. It is considered “men’s work” in Somali society. But Ahmed is determined to push her way in.

“They say it is men’s work,” she says. “They don’t trust that we are strong enough to run a boat or manage a business. They want us to sell things like milk on the roadside or stay at home.”

Ahmed was introduced to the industry by a friend, and she soon discovered that other women were challenging stereotypes, switching from selling milk and tea, which could pay for a day’s food, to selling fish, which could pay for food and help cover school fees.

“It was like a door of hope had opened for me in the sea,” she says. “I was hesitant at the beginning but I now feel empowered.”